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Parents have been urged to speak to their children about the risks of sharing too much information through social media following the introduction of a new Snapchat feature.

The facility – which allows other people to see where a specific individual is at a certain time – has sparked concern among support groups and observers.

The Snap Map feature at the centre of the debate utilises phone usage, location and how quickly a person is moving to ascertain where they are and what they may be doing at a set point. From that, Snap Map shares the information with friends on an interactive map.

Snap Map highlights precise locations

A default facility does allow users to opt out of sharing their location via the “ghost mode” but observers warn that while this mode means you cannot be seen on the maps of your friends, users can still track the whereabouts of contacts if they have not turned the facility off.

The app also allows a user to share their location with all their friends, or specifically chosen people, providing detail so precise that it can show the whereabouts of a person on a certain street.

Warning to parents

This has triggered a warning to parents to make their children aware of the potential dangers of this and also take further action to protect their privacy as a result.
Significantly, it has also prompted the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) to update its ‘Thinkuknow’ parents’ and carers’ guide to Snapchat.

In addition, one mother, celebrity Nadia Sawalha from the Loose Women TV programme, was so concerned that she posted a video on Facebook to alert other parents in case they were unaware of it and needed to take steps to protect their child’s privacy.

In the post, now viewed more than 25 million times, her daughter is seen explaining how the facility works. In response, Sawalha says she is “completely horrified” and says she thinks the Snap Map is “dangerous.”

Speak to children about the risk

The updated ‘Thinkuknow’ guide stresses the importance of young people understanding just who can see their location on Snap Maps and says this may present a risk, pointing out that some Snapchat friends may actually be strangers.

Addressing parents and carers, the guide urges: “Have a conversation with your child about what they do online, who they share their location with, and ways they can keep themselves safe. If they are meeting a friend in a busy place, encourage them to use a private message app or text to share personal information like location.”

Strangers can send friends requests

The ‘Thinkuknow’ guide points out that with Snapchat being popular for both adults and children there is concern that strangers can contact young people directly by sending images or messages or requesting to become ‘friends’.

“Be aware that some young people share their Snapchat username on other social media platforms and this allows other users to request to follow them on Snapchat,” it warns. “Users can also add others using their phone number, therefore sharing a mobile number means they may be added on Snapchat.”

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