In June 2017, Snapchat, a powerhouse social media app with 150 million daily users, created a disturbing new feature known as “Snap Map.” According to Snapchat, the purpose of Snap Map is to make sharing locations easier for its users, 23 percent of which are high school students.
In reality, Snap Map poses a huge threat to adults, and an even more dangerous one to minors. Snap Map systematically broadcasts its user’s location every time he or she opens the app, not just when the user posts on his or her “Story”. While sharing locations with friends might seem harmless, public accounts and public Stories can be viewed by anyone on Snapchat. Considering that 34 percent of all 8 to 13-year-olds use social media, including Snapchat, Snap Map makes children an easy target for predators.
“The user’s location can automatically update on Snap Map as soon as the Snapchat app is open, so there is the potential to share home and school addresses,” said Kids Helpline supervisor Michelle English.
The idea of constant location-sharing concerns many students at Calabasas High School. In a social media age where everyone can know what everyone is doing at all times, many students believe the invasive Snap Map goes too far.
“It’s kind of scary knowing that people can see your every move and where you are at all times,” said sophomore Emily Burman at Calabasas High School. “It almost makes me want to stop using Snapchat.”
CHS students like Burman recognize the negative consequences that come with using Snap Map. Despite the potential danger, some students view Snap Map as a helpful tool to stay in touch with far away friends.
“It’s cool to see my friends from camp that live in different countries. It’s fun to see how far away everyone lives from each other because even though we live so apart, we are still so connected,” said sophomore Dani Rauchman.
As Rauchman points out, Snap Map’s only real advantage is that it allows friends who live far apart to easily keep in touch. However, this misperception of closeness does not outweigh the dangers of an app that exposes children to unwanted predators by sharing their home addresses and exact locations.
The only way to prevent sharing location on Snapchat is by activating “Ghostmode”. To change Snap Map settings, users can either use two fingers to pinch the screen to enter Snap Map and click on the Settings icon, or go to Snapchat’s general Settings Menu and select the “See My Location” tab.
Snapchat may appear to be a fun way to send silly photos to friends or capture daily memories. However, its policies give Snapchat’s developers the ability to aimlessly disseminate users’ locations and data. Social media users have the responsibility of protecting themselves and their personal information. Dangerous features like Snap Map can cause a lot of damage to young people especially. Therefore, users should be aware of social media’s impact on their privacy and must stop blindly joining online networks unless they fully understand the consequences.