Instagram is generally considered pretty tame as long as kids adjust their privacy settings to limit who can see their photos and don't post nudity, which could subject them to child pornography laws. But Levey points out that many parents don't know their kids are on Instagram until there's trouble — usually when kids post photos at parties, and other kids who aren't invited see them.
Dale Harkness, a technology director at Richmond-Burton Community High School in Richmond, Ill., said parents often will hand their kids a mobile device without understanding exactly what it can do. He estimates that even without the latest social media app, the average high school student probably transmits some 150 texts a day.
"It's not anything that every parent and grandparent hasn't already seen," Harkness said. The problem, he adds, is the actions "get documented, replayed and sent around," and kids "forget how fast it moves and how far it goes."
That was the case at Ridgewood High School in Ridgewood, N.J., where a male student allegedly took a screenshot of nude pictures sent to him by female classmates via Snapchat, then posted the pictures on Instagram. According to a letter to parents by the school district's superintendent that was later posted online, police were warning students to delete any downloaded pictures by Monday or face criminal charges under child pornography laws.
There are general security concerns too. A recent report by a cyberthreat research company, called F-Secure, found that some of the new social networking sites have become ripe targets for spreading malware and propagating scams.
In January, the FBI arrested a 27-year-old man in Los Angeles who allegedly hacked into hundreds of social media and email accounts, including Facebook and Skype, and found naked photos and personal passwords that women had stored online. He used the naked photos to try to coerce women into disrobing for him via Skype and threatened to post their private photos to their Facebook accounts if they refused to comply, according to the indictment.