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What You Need to Know About Snapchat’s Controversial Snap Map Feature

Snapchat Snap Map

When Snapchat debuted its Snap Map feature in June, it positioned it as a fun, convenient tool made for finding nearby friends with just a click. Not sure where to head after dinner? Look! Three of your friends are at a concert nearby and it hasn’t started yet. Now you can show up and crash their party.

They were selling “fun and social” but those aren’t the words most are using to describe the new feature. Instead people are calling it stalkerish. Creepy. Dangerous. You get the picture. Child safety groups, in particular, have sounded alarms about what the feature means for kids who use the app. 

If you’re worried about your teen, given her near obsession with that dog face filter, here’s what you need to know about Snap Map, including how it works and how to easily turn it off.

How Snap Map Works

Basically, Snap Map allows Snapchat users to see the locations of their friends and share their own, within the app.

The map itself displays friends as their bitmoji (a cute avatar, basically) placed directly onto the map, with nearly exact precision, and if you click on the person, you can view photos they’ve shared from that location.

There’s also a new “Our Story” story feature, which aggregates snaps at a location. So, for example, if 20 people using Snap Map are at the same food festival, you might be able to view “Our Story” at that location and see what everyone’s posting.

How to Turn Snap Map Off

Here’s the most important point: once you update the app to the latest version, the feature automatically activates, but just like many of Snapchats features, finding it isn’t intuitive, and turning it off also involves a handful of confusing steps. There’s no icon that appears, and you can’t just go the the settings to make changes. 

To get to it, open the app to the camera screen and pinch the screen in. The map will appear.

Snapchat Snap Map

The first time you do this it should prompt you to adjust your settings by asking “Who can see my location on the app?” and giving you the choice of “Only Me (Ghost Mode),” “My Friends,” or “Select Friends.”

If you choose My Friends, you’ll be visible to everyone you’re connected to on the app, but you can also choose individual friends you want to be more open with.

If you want to make sure your location (or your kid’s!) isn’t being shared, choose “Only Me (Ghost Mode).” Then, when you open the map, your bitmoji will be wearing white with a little blue Snapchat icon over its face, and when you click on yourself, it’ll say “Me, Not Sharing Location.” This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to see friends’ locations if they’ve opted to share theirs, just that you’ll be invisible.

To change the settings at any point in the future, just pinch the screen to get to the map, click on your bitmoji, and a bar will appear at the bottom that says “Me, Tap for Settings.” Tap there and the original options will be presented again.

The Bottom Line

Now that you know how it works and how to de-activate it if you’re worried, one last question: Should you be worried? Should you insist that your kiddos maintain their online privacy even if they’re only using Snapchat among friends?

Childnet, a group that focuses on internet safety for kids, offered these recommendations in response to the launch of Snap Map, and they seem pretty reasonable and on-point:

Sharing location can be a risky thing to do. Our tips for location sharing are:

  • Only share your location with people you know in person. Never share your location with strangers.
  • Don’t add contacts to Snapchat if you don’t know them in person.
  • Regularly review your settings and take an active decision about whether you want people to know your location. Remember you can switch this off at any time. Think about where you’re sharing your location. Location services such as Snap Maps can lead people to your house. Think about what times you’re on the app and whether these are locations you want to share – if not, then turn this off within your settings.

In my opinion, this is yet another attempt to pull teens in to their phones more, and to breed more discontent with where you are, and more interest in where everyone else is. And given that social media

Do you think the concerns about Snap Map are overblown or warranted? Have you talked to your kids about it? Share your thoughts in the comments, below!

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