Schools issue warning over SnapChat Map feature

Snapchat

The popular social network has unveiled a new feature that could put children at risk

Experts are warning that a new Snapchat feature increases the risks of stalking, cyber-bullying and sexual exploitation, and are urging parents to make sure they understand how to turn it off. Here’s your quick guide.

What is SnapChat Map?

SnapChat Maps in a nutshell -

  • It's a feature that allows other people to see exactly where you are in real time
  • It shares your location information with your friends on an interactive map
  • This happens in the background, even if your child is not actively communicating with people on the app
  • Anyone who follows your child can see where they are if the feature is enabled

How can my child use SnapChat safely?

If they’ve not already done so, it’s best that your child disables the SnapChat Maps feature. It’s easy to do and can be done at any time.

How to disable SnapChat maps:

  • When in photo-taking mode, pinch the centre of the screen as if you were zooming out on a photo.
  • Tap the settings cog on the top right-hand corner of the screen
  • Tap the “Ghost Mode” setting so that the slider goes to the right – ie. so it's activated

What is SnapChat?

SnapChat is an app that allows users to take photos and send them to friends and people who follow them.

Photos sent via the app can only be seen once, and the sender can decide how long they are visible for – from one to 10 seconds. The image will then disappear – but crucially, this does not mean there is no more trace of it. Images can be screenshotted and potentially sent on to a friend or someone else the recipient knows.

You can also add a “geofilter” which adds a location-specific graphic to the image, which tells the recipient you are in a particular city or landmark. It is for this reason that your child must be aware of what they are sending, why they are sending it and the potential risks involved.

SnapChat is not moderated, and although sexual and violent imagery is banned in their Community Terms, there is little to stop it from being posted. You have to be pragmatic here and remember that it's possible that your child will see something that will upset them, so it's important to keep a conversation going with them so that they feel able to tell you if they come across something which upsets them. If that happens, try not to jump straight on the outrage bus however shocking the material might be that they've come across. You don't want to alienate them when they need your support.

A user can “add friends” on SnapChat, a bit like you can on Facebook. These aren't necessarily people the user knows – which could be as innocent as a celebrity, or it could be a stranger. It's best to make sure that your child only uses the app to stay in touch with close, trustworthy friends – but we're aware that teenagers will be teenagers, so they (and you) should be armed with the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe.

SnapChat has a minimum age restriction of 13 years, but there is no actual age verification in place – so potentially someone below that could use false information to sign up

How to stay safe on social media – general rules for kids

  • Only add people as friends or share information with people that you know in real life
  • Don't send a picture of anything you wouldn't want to be put out in public
  • Don't share your location with people
  • Remember that everything on the internet is essentially permanent and you don't know where things might get sent or who they'll be shared with
  • It's a good idea to think about the language you're using – avoid using racist or offensive language that might harm your reputation further down the line
  • Don't share things that other people might not want to be shared
  • Make your settings “private” so that the general public cannot see what you’re posting

You can also read more about SnapChat with CEOP's newly updated guide.