Snapchat, which is the widely popular disappearing photo and video app with our tweens and teens has a new that all parents should be aware of. If you haven’t heard of Snapchat, check out our “What is Snapchat” post here. This new Snapchat feature has family cyber safety experts concerned – and if your child is using this app, you should be too.
What is the new Snapchat feature parents should be concerned about?
The new” Snap Maps” will reveal your current location in real time if your devices location services are turned on.
It does this by showing your child’s Bitmoji character on a map (or a shadow figure if they haven’t created a Bitmoji). This opt-in feature allows friends to look at shared stories which are created by a combination of Snaps taken by multiple users at the same event or location.
Users can decide who sees where they are (all friends, a select group, or no one known as ghost mode). Users can zoom out far enough to see the entire world map, and close enough to see landmarks and street names.
The real safety concern is others being able to track your child’s daily movements. Other users (perhaps ex-friends, a real-life bully, or even strangers,) can see where your child goes to school, when they are home, the routes they take daily, and where they can be found in real time. It makes real life stalking easy through cyber-stalking channels.
Your child may not realize this feature is on ALL THE TIME. Snapchat updates your location when the app is open – not just when sharing to “My Stories”.
What can parents do?
There are a few things you can do to help your child with “Snap Maps”.
- Make certain your teen understands the repercussions of leaving location services turned on (Snapchat is not the only app with this type of feature) – have them turn it off
- Set the app to “Ghost Mode” which keeps their location private (the Bitmoji does not appear on the map)
- Make certain your tweens “friends” on Snapchat (and all social media) are people they know offline
- If your child is under 13 – have them use Snapchat Kids which is a limited version of the app that lets them to take photos and play with the fun filters, but does not allow them to connect with other users.
Please share this information with other parents. Together we can all keep our children safer online.