Snapchat’s Snap Maps – Are you at risk?

Snapchat is one of the most popular social media channels for 13 to 17-year-olds*. For those who don’t know, it’s an app that’s downloaded to a smartphone and is primarily used for sending photos or videos which automatically delete after up to 10 seconds.

More often than not users add their friends from their contact list or use the ‘nearby’ function to search for friends.

adding friends

Following a recent update to the app, users are now able to opt into a feature called ‘Snap Map’. This is a live map which shows the location of you, your friends and events in the area. It is designed to allow more engagement between friends. You can also see local events though a heat map collating ‘our story’ snaps. The app works in conjunction with BitMoji and you can design what your character will look like on the live map.

It’s an extremely accurate map, showing your location within 10 meters, providing the opportunity for anybody who is on your friend’s list to see almost exactly where you are.

snap map

The good news is that you can choose exactly who you want to share your location with and it’s not possible to share your location with someone who isn’t already your friend. When you first use the map function you’ll see that you are automatically set to Ghost Mode which means you can’t be seen.  There are two other options allowing you to show all friends your location or you can select specific friends.

Sharing any personal information online, including your location, should be treated with caution on any application.

We would advise parents and carers to discuss social media use with their children, monitor their use and keep up to date with new developments and applications.

While there are concerns that the type of information being shared could potentially be open to abuse, the risks can be significantly reduced by users adopting a responsible approach by assessing who they share their information with and activating the facility’s privacy settings and ‘Ghost Mode’ function in their accounts.

Ghost mode

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) has lots of information about the many different social media applications including Snapchat.

If you have concerns about something that has happened online, you can make a report to one of CEOP’s Child Protection Advisors, alternatively call police on 101 or get in touch with Childline.

*Statistics from 2016 show that 23% of their users were aged 13-17, 37% were 18-24 and 26% 25-34.

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