What You Need To Know.
Ah, Snapchat, the photo and video sharing application that can be found on virtually any Millennials cell phone. A few weeks ago the social media network rolled out its newest, and possibly most controversial, feature; Snap Map.
The idea is simple enough: through GPS tracking users can pull up a live updating map of their town or city and see where exactly their friends are down to a street corner or coffee shop. The new feature isn’t necessarily a new idea, location sharing is rather common. iPhone’s can do it by ‘sharing’ one’s location with a certain person for a limited amount of time (such as an hour, day, or week). Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all have an option of tagging your exact location when making a post (such as a restaurant, concert venue, or hiking trail).
So why is Snapchat’s newest feature drawing skepticism from parents and warnings from the police? The user base of Snapchat is young. 60% of the applications users are under the age of 25 and a whopping 23%, or virtually one fourth of all users, haven’t even graduated from High School yet.
There is a legitimate concern that if this feature is used carelessly or abused, it could put teens in harm’s way. Predators could potentially add users, who could carelessly approve and thus have live, up-to-the-date tracking of potential victims, down to the cross streets. If you are a parent of a teen, this is probably terrifying.
Snapchat did include a “ghost mode” in their settings which if turned on, will hide the location of that user from the map. Snapchat does acknowledge that the feature could potentially be abused. They insist that parents and teens should always be having an open conversation about social media safety; sorta like “stranger danger”, but for millennials.
The feature also only shares your location with your friends, who you have to approve of before they become your ‘friend’. This, in theory, weeds out any potential predators from being able to see a certain someone’s location. The problem with this is that not everyone is vigilant about who they are approving. Sometimes, users will just mass accept friend requests, not verifying the identity of each request, allowing for potential predators to slip the through the cracks and straight into their friend’s list; this is where the potential danger is a legitimate concern.
Snapchat is telling parents to talk to their children about their social media habits and make sure they are smart and safe. Snapchat has also released a “Parent’s Guide To Snapchat Safety”. Parents should read it, understand the application, and have serious and open conversations with their children.
Police departments around the country have also been chiming in on how to be a vigilant Snapchatter in the wake of the new feature. This response is similar to the response after the location based augmented reality game, Pokemon Go, was released last summer. That application also shared users locations and drew a public response about social media safety as well.
ESI Communications would like to encourage parents to read up on Snapchat’s newest feature and ask their kids if they can help monitor their friend’s list in order to keep them safe. If the feature still makes you nervous, talk to your kids about turning off the feature entirely.