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What parents need to know about Snapchat’s new ‘Snap Map’ feature

If you’re a regular reader of Internet Safe Education, you probably already know a lot about Snapchat; the app that allows users to share ‘self-destructing’ photos or videos with their friends. The fact photos delete themselves up to 10 seconds after being viewed makes Snapchat a popular platform for ‘sexting’ – but that’s another story.

Snapchat is free to use, and one of the top five social media platforms most used by kids. With over 150 million daily users, a huge portion of young people already have accounts and are sharing photos with their friends. So if you aren’t already aware of Snapchat’s latest feature ‘Snap Map’, you’re going to want to read on.

What is ‘Snap Map’?

Snap Map’ is a new GPS-based feature that allows users to share, search and view publicly submitted photos and videos based on their location. While Snapchat have gone to some lengths to ensure a user’s privacy isn’t breached, you’ll still need to ensure any children in your care understand the inherent dangers of sharing their location over the internet, and preferably have the feature turned off.

Snapchat’s Snap Map pins a user’s name alongside a caricature of the user (called an ‘ActionMoji’) to the map based on their current location. Unlike other social media platforms such as Facebook who show your location only when decide to share it, Snapchat constantly updates your location every time you open the app. This means active users are effectively broadcasting their location to the world in real time.

Sharing your location online at all is generally unwise – especially for younger users. Sharing it in real time is outright insanity. If someone was to monitor the activity of a child, they would be able to quickly ascertain their home address, school, and route to and from each. I don’t need to explain why this is a terrifying prospect.

Even older Snapchat users should be very careful with this feature. Even if you aren’t as vulnerable and don’t mind as much about strangers knowing where you are – it’s worth considering that Snap Map also shows strangers where you aren’t. Criminals can see when you’re not home.

What can you do to keep your location off Snapchat?

Luckily, it’s not too difficult to change your Snap Map privacy settings to tailor exactly who sees your location.

Once you’ve open the feature for the first time, Snapchat will prompt you to select who you’d like to share your location with. You have three options;

  • My friends: This shares your location with all the Snapchat users you’ve added as friends. Keep in mind that anyone can send Snapchat users a request to be ‘friends’ on Snapchat.
  • A select group of friends: You can choose a select group of friends to share your location with. Filtering to share your location only with verified real-world friends gives users a little extra protection, but is still not nearly as safe as the third option…
  • Ghost mode: ‘Ghost Mode’ stops Snapchat from sharing your location with anyone. We strongly recommend any younger users keep their accounts in Ghost Mode at all times. It is by far the safest option – and still allows you to use all the rest of the functionality of the app.

You can turn ‘Ghost Mode’ on and off quite easily, so it’s important you properly explain the dangers of sharing your location with any children in your care so they don’t turn it back on again when you’re not looking.

For more information on Snap Maps, we recommend taking a look at Thinkuknow’s comprehensive Parents’ and carers’ guide to Snapchat. It’s worth knowing it’s also possible to submit an account deletion request to Snapchat on behalf of a minor if you are their legal guardian.