GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The latest social media trend involving Snapchat is also raising privacy concerns for parents.
Snap Maps allows friends to find one another through geolocation.
The new feature is becoming a big hit with teenagers, by giving them another way to use technology to interact with one another. But some West Michigan parents who come across the feature are shocked by what they’re seeing.
“My daughter who is 13 years old showed it to me this weekend and I kind of freaked,” said a mother who wished to remain anonymous. “I was surprised to see about a dozen of her friends, I could see their picture, their avatar and their exact location.”
24 Hour News 8 took a closer look at the new feature with a local social media expert, Chris McKenna, founder of Protect Young Eyes.
The feature uses small “bitmoji” characters to represent the user’s friends. When the user zooms in, it allows them to see their friend’s exact location.
Whether it’s at a concert, driving in the car, or at their house, they can be found. The avatar travels, just as the user does.
“I mean, it’s kind of cool if you don’t mind the whole world knowing exactly where you’re located on the map,” said Protect Young Eyes founder Chris McKenna, who educates parents on the hidden risks and dangers of using social media.
In a statement to 24 Hour News 8, Snapchat said the Snap Map location sharing is off by default for all users. Snapchatters can choose who they want to share their location with and change that setting at any time, the company said.
However, 24 Hour News 8 found if you send a snap to the “Our Story” section from an event through the Snap Map feature, anyone can potentially see where you’re at.
“My mind normally goes to what predators are out there that could prey on my children and I’m concerned for their safety,” said the West Michigan mom.
The app does provide a way to hide your location, by turning on “ghost mode.”
“That means other people who are friends of mine and maybe have added me wouldn’t be able to see me on their Snap Map,” explained McKenna.
To activate it, go to the app’s settings and tap on the toggle bar to enable ghost mode.
To stay updated on social media dangers and learn how to turn off Snapchats’s Snap Map, visit Protect Young Eyes’ website.
“I lock my doors at night and I consider safety on the internet to be just as important,” the mother said.
Read Snapchat’s entire statement about Snap Map below:
“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.”