If you’re the parents of a tween or teen then it’s likely you’re well aware of the popularity of the Snapchat.
The photo and video messaging app, which allows users to take ‘snaps’ to share, is one of the fastest growing and most popular amongst teens.
A survey of 13-17 year olds, carried out by the University of Chicago, found that 75% of those surveyed used Snapchat, compared to the 66% who used Facebook.
Snapchat and its consequences
Snapchat and the ability it gives young people to share in real time, has proven to be a divisive topic amongst parents. The primary concern relates to its supposed ‘short lived’ nature. Many teenage users are under the impression that the stories they upload are deleted after 24 hours. What they fail to recognise is that any image/video they upload can be saved by another user. This can happen without the uploader’s knowledge or consent.
Teens are not generally regarded for their superior risk management abilities. Nor do they have a great capacity to think outside the present. This can present a very real issue when something they capture and upload ‘in the moment’ becomes something they later regret. The vulnerability created by Snapchat is one reason many parents either ban or closely monitor its use by their kids.
The introduction of Snap Maps
If managing the sharing of videos and photos wasn’t enough, parents are now being advised to discuss Snap Maps with their Snapchat using offspring. Snap Maps, which was launched last week, plots users and their snaps onto a map so friends and other Snapchatters can see where people are located and what they are doing in real time.
Snapchat is selling the feature as a new way to interact and engage with the wider world. “We’ve built a whole new way to explore the world,” said Snap in the blogpost published to announced the update. “See what’s happening, find your friends, and get inspired to go on an adventure.”
Snap Maps and child safety
Childnet however, whose mission it is to work to help make the internet a safe place for children, has a number of concerns about the new feature, especially when it comes to teens. “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,” the advocacy group stated on their website. “It is important to be careful about who you share your location with, as it can allow people to build up a picture of where you live, go to school and spend your time.”
There have long been concerns regarding Snapchat and cyberbullying and the introduction of Snap Maps has only increased this worry. The ability to see where and what friends are doing at any given time leaves users open to being tracked down quickly and easily.
Snapchat is aware of concerns and has reassured users that their safety is at the forefront of all their developments. “Snapchatters can choose exactly who they want to share their location with, if at all, and can change that setting at any time,” they said in their blogpost. “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.”
What should parents do?
Keeping a close eye on Snap Maps and discussing its usage with your child is the best way to manage the introduction of the feature. Snap Maps will continue to be completely optional and users can choose to either enable it fully, partially (for a select group of friends) or not at all. ‘Ghost Mode’ means that you are the only person who can see your location on the map. You can still see friends but they will be unable to see you.
Childnet has the following tips for parents to share with their Snapchatting children:
- Only share your location with people you know in person. Never share your location with strangers.
- Don’t add contacts to Snapchat if you don’t know them in person.
- Regularly review your settings and take an active decision about whether you want people to know your location. Remember you can switch this off at any time.
- Think about where you’re sharing your location. Location services such as Snap Maps can lead people to your house.
- Think about what times you’re on the app and whether these are locations you want to share – if not, then turn this off within your settings.
For more information about Snap Maps, visit Snap Maps