Since its release in September 2011, the popular app Snapchat has been no stranger to controversy. With photos, videos and messages that disappear within seconds after sending, Snapchat has been the center of countless sexting and cyberbullying scandals throughout its years of availability in the Apple and Android app stores.
Like many other social media apps, Snapchat regularly updates their software to introduce new, fun ways to share photos and videos while also maintaining their original appeal. Previous updates included the introduction of Snapchat Filters (like the fan-favorite dog filter that probably has been clogging your feed for months) and Geotags, which provide a customized tag for your photo depending on your whereabouts and phone location settings.
The most recent update, which was announced in a blog post on June 21, introduces Snapchat users to a new feature, Snap Map.
Similar to the Geotag update, Snap Map uses your location settings to place you on a map so your friends can see where you are at any given time of the day. If you have multiple friends in one spot, that is considered a “hot spot.”
But the new update isn’t boding well with parents who feel it could potentially put kids in dangerous situations.
“This new Snapchat update is awful. An invitation for stalkers, kidnappers, burglars and relationship trust issues,” an online user said in a comment on a BBC story.
Although Snapchat hasn’t released a statement regarding the concerns about the update, here’s what we think parents should know:
1. The update can only be enabled if you choose to enable it.
If your child’s phone does not have automatic updates set up to update apps immediately when new software is introduced, odds are, they still have the old version of Snapchat that doesn’t include the Snap Map feature. Unless your child manually updates the app himself, he shouldn’t be exposed to Snap Map.
2. After being enabled, the feature gives you three options: Ghost Mode, My Friends and Select Friends.
After updating the app, the new feature requires you to pinch the center of the camera screen to access Snap Map. Upon using it for the first time, you’re provided with three options for viewing your Snap Map. You can choose Ghost Mode which lets you see your friends’ locations but keeps your location private; My Friends which gives your location to every Snap Map user on your Snapchat friends list; and Select Friends which allows you to select the friends you want to reveal your location to. You can change your mode at any time by clicking on the Settings dropdown menu.
3. Snap Map provides the city and state every user is in, but not their exact address.
While some have been led to believe the Snap Map update reveals your exact location, it actually only shows the city and state you are in. Because your location is featured on a map, though, it is possible to see the streets and buildings near you by simply zooming in. So, if you and your child live in Trenton, NJ, your child’s location will only show up with that info, but a quick swipe could easily reveal your street name.