PARENTS have been warned about the danger of a new mobile phone app that could be used by cyberbullies.
Snapchat allows users to send images and videos that disappear within seconds of being opened.
Concerns have been raised that the app could be used by cyberbullies as the material sent is designed to "self-destruct" meaning there is little chance of gathering evidence against them.
The National Parents Council, Post Primary, has urged parents to make themselves aware about the potential dangers of Snapchat and to discuss these with their children.
Spokeswoman Jackie O'Callaghan warned that with children as young as 11 now owning smartphones, and the tragic deaths of a number of young teenagers late last year, the danger of cyberbullying cannot be underestimated.
"The concern is that something of a pornographic nature or something derogatory... could be sent to a child and opened up. It then disappears off the screen and there is no evidence. It deletes itself within seconds, it's gone in a very short space of time, and there's no way of tracing it.
"There's also the issue of anonymity of it because it is sent by the app," she added.
The app is now one of the most popular available for Apple's mobile devices. Its creators, university students Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, say over 50 million "snaps" are now shared each day.
Unlike normal picture messaging, the person sending the image can decide how long it is visible – up to 10 seconds.
However some media reports suggest that Snapchat images can be stored using screenshot software.
Ms O'Callaghan said there was a duty of care by mobile phone sellers to make parents aware that "things that are available on a laptop are available on smartphones".
"From February onwards, a lot of children will be making their Confirmation. Parents might have said 'We're not getting you a new phone for Christmas but you might get one for Confirmation'. "
However she warned that unlike the family PC or laptop which can be used under supervision, children have their smartphones with them all day. For those who are being bullied, it often means there is no let-up from the abuse.
At the launch of the app Apple said: "Video snaps are 10 seconds long, and like photo snaps, can only be viewed once in the application."