A photo sharing application for mobile devices popular among teens has police warning users to be careful about what they send.

Snapchat is an application that allows users to share photos, then add text or drawings, that are designed to vanish within several seconds.

Snapchat acknowledges on its website that its messages aren't guaranteed to disappear. Anyone receiving a text or photo can use their 10 seconds to capture a "screenshot," or photo of their device's screen, and save that image to their phone. Video also can be downloaded, although Snapchat said it alerts senders when their data is saved.

"Nothing ever disappears," said RCMP Cpl. Scott MacRae.

That's why police are warning people, especially teens, to think twice before using Snapchat to send intimate photos.

"If you do share information, through any type of electronic texting, Snapchat being one of them, just realize that somebody might be able to capture that screen, that information and who knows where it goes," he said.

Use caution on social media

Social Media Analyst Giles Crouch said people should use the same caution they would with other forms of social media and not share what they don’t want to become public.

"All those images are in fact saved on your phone or your iPad, whatever device you’re using. It's very hard to get those files, there is a company that will do it for parents or organizations. It costs $300 to $500 to retrieve them. But if you're clever enough, you could hack in and get the photos," he said.

Another, less expensive method of capturing an ephemeral Snapchat permanently is to set up your phone to take a screen grab — an easy modification for most smartphones.

The app was launched nearly two years ago, but has exploded in popularity in recent months with as many as 200 million photos being shared everyday.

At a summer computer camp in Nova Scotia, campers learn about safe use of social media.

Patrick Martin said most his friends are obsessed with Snapchat but he won't use it.

"You get notified if a screenshot has been taken of it, but at the same time that doesn't guarantee that the person is going to comply to deleting it. So I do think you have to be careful, as with everything online," he said.

According to the Pew Research Centre's Internet and American Life Project, more than 75 per cent of teenagers have a cellphone and use online social networking sites such as Facebook. But educators and kids say there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that Facebook for teenagers has become a bit like a school-sanctioned prom — a necessary rite of passage with plenty of adult onlookers — while apps such as Snapchat are the much cooler after-party.