Is the New Snap Map Putting Your Teen in Danger?
Snapchat has released a new feature—Snap Map—and it’s quickly raising the anxiety levels of parents who have serious concerns about what the new feature means for their children’s security and privacy.
What is Snap Map?
Snap Map allows users to share their location with their Snapchat friends with a simple adjustment of a privacy setting. While the default setting–called Ghost Mode–lets users remain incognito in their location, teens may find that sharing whereabouts via Snap Map is a fun way to meet-up with friends. However, the new fun feature also has nefarious implications.
According to Snapchat’s support site: “If you and a friend follow one another, you can share your locations with each other so you can see where they’re at and what’s going on around them! Plus, meeting up can be a cinch.”
‘Meeting up can be a cinch’…is exactly the problem for parents. While Snapchat states that users can choose which friends see their location, sharing any piece of personal information can have serious safety consequences.
Is Snap Map Safe?
ABC News reported on the new Snapchat feature and interviewed Charles Tendell, a cyber security expert, who told the station: “It is very easy to accidentally share everything that you’ve got with more people than you need too, and that’s the scariest portion.”
And if a teen or tween shares their location with the wrong person, then the consequences could be serious…and possibly even deadly. Unknowingly, kids can reveal their exact location to a predator masking as a friend…or even to a friend who might have ill intentions.
The Verge calls the Snap Map Snapchat’s “biggest privacy threat.” Writing for The Verge, Dani Deahl explains that the new feature broadcasts a user’s location each time they open the app…if the user enables Snap Map as their default.
Deahl determined a Snapchat friend’s address through the Snap Map feature and detailed the issue in her story for The Verge. Deahl’s friend had been unaware that her Snap Map was enabled and was shocked when she discovered the access Snap Map provided.
“That’s so creepy!” Deahl’s friend told her in the article. “I don’t know why anyone would use that. I understand if you’re at an event and checking in, but I wouldn’t want people to see where I am at all times.”
If the app can get out of hand and confusing for adults, the trouble it could cause children may be much greater. Parents can and should talk to their kids about the potential risks in using Snapchat’s Snap Map. This is a feature that can quickly become problematic for more inexperienced users.
While parents have the right to set their own boundaries for kids, the Snap Map feature is not the safest option for tweens and younger teens. However, if older teens are permitted to use the feature as their default setting, be prepared to set boundaries.
Limit Location Sharing
Parents can choose to set a limit regarding with whom teens share their location. Close friends and family members are the ideal choices for location sharing. Acquaintances and anyone outside a close friend or two (and family) should not be receiving location information.
Close the App
If Snap Map is enabled, Snapchat will send location information to friends as long as the Snapchat app is open. Make sure teens understand that they need to close the app to stop the Snapchat from sharing their locations. Or change the default setting to Ghost Mode.
Maintain Privacy Settings
If a Snapchat account is public, users who enable Snap Map may share locations to people they might not know, according to an article published by the Telegraph. For optimum safety, set privacy settings to private and then select only those individuals that may receive Snap Map info.
Know the Risks
Teens must understand the risks that they face when allowing anyone to access their location. Parents need to discuss that location tracking gives certain friends the ability to see their location at doctor’s offices, restaurants, stores…and even other friends’ houses. When you reveal your location, friends have instant access to a user’s whereabouts…and that has the potential to be embarrassing.
Who Shouldn’t Use Snap Map
For younger teens and tweens, the Snap Map feature should be a no-go. There are far too many risks associated with location sharing to advocate its use among younger teens. With a simple slip, a minor’s location may be shared and the damage could never be undone.
Snap Map is in its infancy as a feature, and like all new social media functions, Snap Map is bound to have glitches and issues. With a feature that already puts users—adults and kids—at risk, the complications of using the feature are unfortunately unknown.
For parents who want ultimate control over their children’s safety, insist that young users go into Ghost Mode. Because sometimes ghosting—and remaining incognito—is in everyone’s best interest.