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

by Screen Time Team on 27/03/2019
A map that constantly tracks exactly where you are can sound like the stuff of nightmares. And sometimes SnapMap, Snapchat's feature where it locates users on a map has been the subject of horrifying stalking stories, but it's also served the public good more than once. Here's what parents need to know about how it works, how to talk to their children about the risk, and whether teens should use it.
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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The Risks of Sharing Vacation Photos on Social Media

by Screen Time Team on 25/07/2018
One of the most unexpected changes to the world smartphones have brought us is that now, cameras are everywhere and can share any image they take to the entire world instantly. The problem is that often this tells the world more about us than we care for it to know, and vacation photos are no exception. When planning a trip with your kids, it's important to talk about when, and why, to share vacation photos.
Family posting outside together for a selfie.

A selfie in the moment is great. But it doesn’t need to be posted.

What’s Wrong With Vacation Photos?

The main problem with vacation photos, at least if you share them while on vacation, is that they tell the entire world that you’re not at home. This alerts criminals, vandals, and other people that your home is unprotected and wide open to whatever they want to do. Granted, the overall probability of this is somewhat low, but at the same time, we don’t take unnecessary risks online, why should we take them in the real world?

Just as difficult, though, is that social media and photo sharing is a distraction from your vacation. Even if your profile is completely private, the reality of social media is that people interact with the things you post. They like them, they post comments, they ask questions, and, especially if you’re in a beautiful place, a supposed escape from the hustle of the every day, why are you paying attention to social media in the first place?

Setting The Rules

Teenage boy walking on a pathway with tall grass to the side.

Those great vacation pics will be just as shareable after you’re back home.

So, before you set off on your vacation, you should set a few rules, and perhaps install a parental control app to enforce them. Parental control software can be useful for any vacation, but it needs to be backed up with a conversation about why you’re putting the rules in place.

    • First of all, set a standard for the whole family, not just your kids. While children may be more prone to being glued to their smartphones, we can all be lured into the same cycle of posting for likes and comments, and it can ruin our vacation just as easily. So, your whole family should agree to ignore social media.
    • Second, kids shouldn’t talk about vacation plans on social media, for much the same reason they shouldn’t share photos while on vacation. Make sure they understand the risks.
    • Next, everyone should be allowed to take all the photos they want, just they shouldn’t post them until they get back. Even with strong parental controls in place, kids should be allowed to take snapshots and selfies to remember their vacation, just like adults do.
    • When you get back, set aside a little family time to pick out photos for an online “family album” to be shared. This isn’t just a good way to maintain a little privacy, it’s also a great family bonding activity. You might even consider using a photo printing service to create an album of vacation memories to keep on the coffee table.

    Vacations are stressful, at least until you get there and kick back. But by setting some ground rules, and making sure everyone sticks to them, you won’t have to worry about oversharing with the wrong people when you’re thousands of miles away. To learn more about phone safety apps for kids, sign up for Screen Time.

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Why Your Teen’s Smartphone May Be Necessary for Their Summer Job

by Screen Time Team on 11/07/2018
Most teens will argue that they need their smartphones, no matter what, although what they define as “need” is likely not the same as their parents. But when it comes to finding and keeping a job, your teen may well be in the right. Smartphones are becoming more and more useful in the workplace, even if they can be a hindrance to some workplace skills, and parents and teens will need to strike a balance between the rules at home and the demands of the workplace.
Young man working at a fast food restaurant.

Many places of employment have employees use smartphones for processes like timekeeping.

Why Do Teens Need Smartphones For A Job?

Technology has changed everything, and finding a job is no exception. Especially with the jobs teens are usually up for, the application process often involves using a custom app or a website to fill out forms, even with places that conduct on-site interviews. In some cases, the entire process is done online, or new employees are asked to view online training modules through their phones and tablets, which can fall afoul of parental control apps for smartphones.

It also applies to the day-to-day “paperwork” of a job. For example, employees may be expected to sign into an app to confirm their hours or tell their manager what hours they have available this week, or they might need an app to access company tools such as price lookup. In some cases, they even need their smartphones to get paid, as companies are increasingly turning to apps like Venmo and Zelle to pay their employees, rather than go to the expense of printing out and distributing paychecks.

And, of course, let’s not forget that having a smartphone means a manager can quickly reach an employee when they’re needed, so if your teen wants to pick up an extra shift, or at least be accessible for it, they can be reached. So, the phone’s necessary, but how do you balance that against the rules?

Young woman holding up a resume smiling.

The smartphone will be part of the job hunt.

Rules Of The Job

To start with, any parental control apps for smartphones should have a “whitelist” function that will let you approve work-related apps and websites, or permit certain phone numbers to call your teen’s phone. Of course, this depends heavily on the app and its function. For example, if you want to keep your teen from spending their whole paycheck in a day, you might put the paycheck app on your phone instead of theirs, and dole out the money where appropriate.

Similarly, you should discuss with their manager the needs for a smartphone at work; if, for example, teens only need their smartphone for their job when they’re not at work, they’ll likely be too busy to look at their phones in the first place. It’s important to, as much as possible, let teens manage their job on their own, however, as learning to negotiate with supervisors and time management are part of the reason teens get jobs in the first place.

Finally, be ready to ease up on your parental control app, beyond a certain point. Taking a job is a big responsibility, and if a teenager can handle showing up to work and getting the job done, then that should be a factor in the phone rules. Sooner or later they’re going to be full-fledged adults, and giving them more responsibility by slow degrees is the best way to make that transition an easy one. To learn more about smartphones and parental control apps, try Screen Time for free!

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Is Too Much Phone Time Diminishing Kids’ Personal Social Skills?

by Screen Time Team on 27/06/2018
Many people are worried that the more time teens spend on their phones, the more they'll struggle to fully develop their person-to-person skills, which, in particular, they need for securing summer jobs and beginning to build their own personal relationships and careers. So, what's the truth? Are phones making us all awkward? And if so, what can we do about it? Before reaching for the iPhone parental controls, here's what you need to know.

Two girls lying upside down on a couch side by side.

Phones Vs. Faces

To some degree, your teen will interact with other people no matter what. After all, they go to school. But there are areas where some have concerns, and while those concerns might seem overblown, they’re not entirely unwarranted.

The appeal of making friends on the internet is that you can meet people almost exactly like you. This has had some enormous positives: For example, teens with chronic illnesses are able to find online support groups with other teens, which helps their mental and physical well-being. But the downside is that if teens only speak with and text the people they find online, just like any other skill, their interpersonal skills can indeed suffer. Perhaps not to the degree people fear, but enough that it can be a concern.

So, how do you address this with your teens? There’s a number of approaches, but it starts with education and encouragement and ensures you get a little help from parental control apps.

People at a concert taking photos and video with their mobile phones.

Getting Kids To Limit Phone Use

  • Don’t panic. This is the equivalent of being a bit rusty with a skill you haven’t used in a month or two. Bar any genuine mental health concerns, assessed by a professional, all teens really need is a little practice.
  • Talk with them about your concerns. Before you set rules and limits, your teens should understand why you’re putting them in place. They’ll be more likely abide by them and less likely to evade them.
  • Encourage them to take on activities and skills that don’t require a phone. Working on the school newspaper, joining a sports team, joining a club, there are all sorts of ways to ensure kids regularly interact with their peers.
  • Talk to your kids about what they’re doing online, and who they’re doing it with. This can prevent getting too caught up in a message board or chat app.
  • Send boundaries, rules and times of day when the phone or the tablet needs to be off. Parental control apps allow you to set schedules and times that the device is locked, and apps like Screen Time offer “instant pause,” a button which allows a parent to shut off their kids phone instantly. This is especially handy when kids go places where the rules are different, and they might be tempted to cheat.

Every teen is different. Some are just naturally social, while others might need to work at it. But by ensuring they have phones when they need them, but can’t use phones to hide from social interaction, you can encourage them to develop a stronger social skill set. To learn more about parental control apps like Screen Time, click here!

 

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Kids’ Mobile Device Use Worldwide: How Do Yours Compare?

by Screen Time Team on 07/02/2018
References are often made in the media about whether the US is “lagging” or “further ahead” of Europe or Japan or another nation. And if you look at the raw numbers, it can feel a bit surprising; the older an American child is, and the more affluent they are, the more likely they are to own a smartphone. But is that a bad thing? And is that really the whole story?

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Culture Matters

The first point that needs to be considered is that every culture has different approaches to smartphones and other devices. For example, in Italy and the UK, according to one survey, kids were expected to shut off their phones and didn’t use them in school. In Denmark, schools made use of smartphones extensively. But the US is well behind South Korea, a nation where most children have a smartphone by the end of grade school.

It’s important to look at the different cultures and expectations, here. Asia is a good example: Singaporean children often get their homework assignments via app, for example, and often classes use educational software on phones to enhance lessons, such as working out complex equations and helping students understand how they function, or to teach calligraphy without wasting paper. But the American educational system, as any parent who’s had to look up Common Core and how it works knows, is very different in its approach.

There’s also the question of “addiction,” although we should be careful about using such a loaded term to describe behavior. Kids have less self-control, and as a result, there’s one thing universally agreed on, by parents, teachers, and device manufacturers alike: Parents need to set boundaries, and parental control apps can help parents enforce those boundaries fairly and consistently.

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Family Matters

Just how much screen time is too much screen time depends on both what your children are using the screen for. Research for homework and checking notes for assignments can’t really be classified as part of “smartphone addiction,” after all. And many parents see phones not as toys but as lifelines; busy kids especially need to be able to call for a ride or for help. Clearly, parental control apps can’t interfere with legitimate smartphone uses.

The first question to ask starts with the rest of the family. Parents need to lead by example; if you’re playing games and goofing off on screens all day, kids take note of that and will follow your lead. They’ll also likely angrily point out the “do as I say, not as I do” nature of banning phones for them while you indulge.

The second question is the hard boundaries. These are moments like bedtime, school hours where a phone isn’t necessary, and other blocks of time where the phone isn’t needed. These should be imposed clearly and everyone should understand why these rules are in place. Again, the right parental control app can be an excellent backstop for keeping boundaries in place and consistent.

Finally, you should deal with the grey areas, like using phones to help with homework or reading times where kids use a screen instead of a paper book. Talk about these grey areas and set clear, fair standards as well as consequences for trying to sneak in a few rounds of Candy Crush. And if you need help setting boundaries, learn more about Screen Time. Screen Time Labs understands that parental control apps, used by caring, conscientious parents, can help keep phones useful and fun, without allowing devices to take over too much of kids’ lives.

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Can Too Much Screen Time Affect Your Kids’ Posture?

by Screen Time Team on 24/01/2018
Mobile devices mean that you don’t have to be tied to a desk to play games or connect to the internet, and neither do your kids. In fact, more and more kids are spending some portion of their day using mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and handheld games. But if you notice that your child is hunching over their device, you may start to wonder what all of these mobile devices are doing to your child’s posture. The good news is, parental control apps like Screen Time can help.
Screen Time

When children use mobile devices, they often gravitate toward positions that are bad for their backs.

What are Mobile Devices Doing to Your Child’s Back?

When your child tilts their head forward because they’re bent over a phone or tablet, the angle of the head puts additional strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the neck. They also tend to round their shoulders forward, which creates additional wear on the back and the upper part of the spine.

When children spend an extended amount of time in these positions, they can start to experience pain. Researchers have noted that doctors are seeing an increase in children coming in for treatments for back and neck pain, and that increase seems to correlate with the increase in mobile device use. What’s more, poor posture tends to breed more poor posture. In other words, if your child is slouching or hunching over a device, they may also be doing it when they’re sitting in class or at the dinner table. Poor posture can quickly become a habit.

What Are The Long-Term Effects?

When children develop a bad posture habit, the effects can be long-lasting. Back and neck pain is only one aspect of the problem. Poor posture can also cause the spinal cord to change shape, which can create chronic pain and affect balance.

Poor posture also has an effect on the rest of the body. Sitting for extended periods of time with poor posture compresses the digestive organs, which has a negative effect on the digestive system. Bad posture is also associated with varicose veins and an elevated risk of heart disease.

What Can You Do?

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Screen Time can help to limit the risk of posture problems

Making some changes to the way your child uses their mobile devices can help decrease their risk of developing poor posture and the problems that go along with it. Avoid allowing your child to use their tablet or phone on the bed or while laying on the couch. Instead, have them sit up straight. Invest in a holder for the device that allows your child to use it without hunching over. Be a good example and model the behaviors you want to see in your children.

Teach your kids to stop and stretch their arms above their heads regularly. This can help them reset their posture. Encourage your child to take frequent exercise breaks away from the digital devices as well. Breaking up the amount of time your child spends on their device will help prevent extended periods of slouching or hunching. Parental control apps can be ideal for this.

Parental control apps can help by allowing you to schedule alerts and time limits to remind your child to stretch or take a break from their device. To find out how parental control software can work for your family, try it for free.

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