Snapchat has a new opt-in location feature, that can share the exact location of your child.
Snap Map was launched this week as a way to share locations with friends and “see where they’re at and what’s going on around them”.
“Only the people you choose can see your location — so if you’re friends with your boss, you can still keep your location on the down low during a ‘sick day’,” Snapchat’s website states.
Some child safety groups have shared concerns and warned against using the location feature, due to stalking and bullying.
But Snapchat say the map initially operates in “ghost mode” and needs to be enabled to work.
Users can select three operational modes – “ghost mode”, “select friends” or “my friends” via the settings gear in the map.
“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,” a Snapchat spokesperson told Mamamia.
“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,” they added.
The eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, says the new feature is a great opportunity for parents to have conversations with their children about the pros and cons of location services.
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“It’s important to discuss the hazards of sharing your precise real-time location, especially if that information is being shared with strangers and potentially nefarious users,” she told Mamamia.
The app makers say it’s not possible to share your location with someone who isn’t already a friend on Snapchat and they say the majority of interactions on the app are between close friends.
However, online safety educators warn that friends can change.
“Parents need to sit down with their kids and get them to really consider which friends they are sharing with,” Larry Magid, the CEO of ConnectSafely.org, told The Guardian.
“Users should be aware of the feature and review it periodically – if a friend becomes an ex-friend, for example.”
Childnet International warned users “to be careful about who you share your location with”.
“It can allow people to build up a picture of where you live, go to school and spend your time,” the website stated.
Australia’s eSafety Commissioner says the best way parents can help their children is to be engaged with their online lives.
“Know the apps and services they’re using and help them set up their accounts and devices so services like location-sharing can be disabled or used safely,” she said.
Snapchat says it is for users aged 13 and up.
For more tips on apps and location services visit esafety.gov.au.