Snapchat app open on a tablet.

Snap Map: The Good, The Bad and How Snapchat Parental Controls Work

by Screen Time Team on 27/03/2019
Snapchat app on a mobile phone.

What Is SnapMap?

SnapMap uses GPS and other location data to place “snaps” made by its users in certain locations and to tell friends where their friends list on the app is located when they have Snapchat open on their phones. On the web, this is presented as a clickable “heat map” that, when you tap on a “warm” area, brings up a snap that’s been contributed by a site’s user for that specific place at that specific time. The goal is to allow people to view events from multiple points of view as people collect photos, videos, and audio clips.

Does SnapMap Track Kids?

On the app, your location is only visible to people you’ve friended, although users can also limit specific snaps to specific people, and can also configure a specific list to exclude certain friends or limit the data to specific friends. It also is only updated when you have Snapchat open and running on your phone. You can also configure it to “Ghost Mode,” which hides your location during certain times or unless you deactivate it, although if you submit a snap to the Our Story feed on the app, it will be tied to a general location. In keeping with Snapchat’s main feature, your location vanishes off of SnapMap after a few hours.

Snapchat app open on a tablet.

Can I Disable SnapMap?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely disable SnapMap once it’s been turned on, at the time of this writing. So if it’s been activated, you’re going to have to figure out how and where to control it, or you can simply remove Snapchat from your child’s phone altogether.

How Can SnapMap Be Used Safely?

First, parents and children need to sit down and have a conversation about balancing sharing with friends versus protecting their safety. Next, kids need to show parents who they have on their friends’ list. A key rule of internet safety is to only be friends with people you know in real life. That should be made even stricter with SnapMap, and remind kids that apps can’t figure out who’s controlling the phone. Just because it’s their friend on the map doesn’t mean it’s their friend watching them on the app. You should also have a discussion about whether you’re comfortable having your home tracked on Snapchat.

External safety tools, like parental control apps, are equally important. You should configure controls to shut off Snapchat completely at certain times, such as at school. In some cases, it may be necessary to block Snapchat. And, of course, if your parental control app is in place, and your concern is too great to allow SnapMap to run, you can simply prevent Snapchat from being downloaded altogether.

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