Last week the popular app SnapChat, already considered dangerous for kids because pictures and messages called “Snaps” disappear in just a few seconds, making it notoriously difficult for parents to monitor, released a new feature that makes it even more risky for your kids to use— “Snap Maps.”
Snap Maps is just your basic “location tracking” feature, BUT with a twist—it makes your emoji appear in your exact location on a map when you send a Snap. So basically, anyone who wants to can find you if they want to. And there are plenty of people on SnapChat that you DON’T want to have your kids’ exact location.
If your kids DO use SnapChat, they don’t HAVE to turn SnapMaps on, and it’s HIGHLY recommended for their safety that they do NOT.
The child safety advocation group ChildNet wrote a blog post about the new feature, saying, “Given how specific this new feature is on Snapchat – giving your location to a precise pinpoint on a map – we would encourage users not to share their location, especially with people they don’t know in person.”
SnapChat makes the feature optional, but if you turn it off, it’s now called “GhostMode.” You can also choose whether to show your location to a select group of friends or to all your connections, but again, since kids using SnapChat may have befriended people claiming to be someone they aren’t, I’d strongly advise using GhostMode ONLY.
Though SnapChat announced Snap Maps with the gleeful “We’ve built a whole new way to explore the world! See what’s happening, find your friends, and get inspired to go on an adventure!” in their own blog post, to me it just seems pretty foolish to use a feature on social media that lets other users track other your location in real time and pinpoints that exact location on an actual map!! I think the ones who are gleeful about this new feature are most likely stalkers and creepers, not your teen’s BFFs.
Larry Magid, the CEO of ConnectSafely.org, also has cautionary words for parents and kids using Snap Maps, and I think he makes an INCREDIBLE point.
“Parents need to sit down with their kids and get them to really consider which friends they are sharing with. Users should be aware of the feature and review it periodically – if a friend becomes an ex-friend, for example.”
With an online world rife with bullying and predators, I think “GhostMode” is the WAY to go for SnapChat users—and I also think a teen’s life is better lived WITHOUT SnapChat in general. There are constantly new invasive technologies being introduced, moms and dads, so be in the KNOW, and don’t be afraid to be the “mean parents” when it comes to restricting your kids’ social media access. This is the kind of situation the phrase “better safe than sorry” was invented for.
Do you use SnapChat? What do you think of the Snap Maps feature?