Over the last two years, I cut down on how often I checked in to a location via social media. I became much more conscious of my family's safety after having my son and want to better protect our privacy. That's why Snapchat's new Snap Map isn't really for me — it seems like it might open up users who don't use it wisely to danger by giving others a way to pinpoint their location with precision. So here is the one thing parents should know about protecting their kids with Snapchat's Snap Map update: You can turn it off.
Since the feature was introduced Wednesday, parents across the country have raised concerns about how Snap Map will affect their children's privacy. The worry is understandable; with the Snap Map update, a user's Snapchat friends can track them down to the building they're in (only if the app is active, though). Snapchat sent Romper the following email statement regarding the safety concerns parents have:
The safety of our community is very important to us and we want to make sure that all Snapchatters, parents and educators have accurate information about how the Snap Map works. With Snap Map, location-sharing is off by default for all users and is completely optional. Snapchatters can choose exactly who they want to share their location with, if at all, and can change that setting at any time. It’s also not possible to share your location with someone who isn’t already your friend on Snapchat, and the majority of interactions on Snapchat take place between close friends.
For more information, parents can also see Snapchat's Parent's Guide.
Snapchat does give users the option to opt out of Snap Map. According to Snopes, a user can turn the feature "Ghost Mode," which masks your location, or customize it so only select friends can see where you are. Parents should be aware of the privacy concerns, and speak with their kids about how to use the feature and turn it off.
ABC Action News suggests parents should let their children take the lead when talking about Snap Map. Particularly, parents should ask their young ones to show them how to use the feature, even if they already know. By letting your child explain Snap Map to you, you will get a better sense of whether they actually understand the app update. This way, you can fill in the gaps and have a more meaningful discussion about the benefits and risks of new technology — like, as Wired pointed out, Snap Map's "stalker factor."
Though most news reports state that Snap Map is automatic, and that you must turn it off to disable the function, Snapchat's communications team told Romper that the feature is off and that users have to actually opt in to its use before it turns on. Users can turn on the Snap Map feature, which then allows them to be in "Ghost Mode," or they can not enable the feature at all, which wouldn't require them to put themselves in "Ghost Mode," according to Snapchat.
Like with all technology and social media use, parents should monitor their kids and make sure they have conversations with them about safety and privacy. Maybe children under a certain age shouldn't have access to a feature like Snap Map at all (Snapchat's minimum age is 13 years old, according to the company's Parents Guide), at least until their old enough to understand the safety concerns.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the Snapchat Snap Map feature is automatic and that users have to opt out in order to stop the app from sharing its location. In fact, it's the other way around: the feature is automatically off unless users turn it on, which would then allow them to turn on "Ghost Mode" if they wanted to, since the feature is enabled. Romper regrets the error.