The Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P), through its Cybertip.ca program, wants to make parents aware of a concerning new location‑sharing feature on Snapchat, an app that lets users send photos, videos, and messages that disappear after a set time. Snapchat is hugely popular with teens and has more users than Twitter.
What is the concern?
If location services have been turned on, “Snap Maps” reveals your current location by showing your Bitmoji character on a map or a shadow‑figure if a Bitmoji character has not been created. This opt‑in feature allows friends to look at shared stories (created by a combination of Snaps, both images and videos) taken by multiple users at the same event or location, or see where other friends are located. Users can select who sees where they are — all friends, a select group, or none (ghost mode). You can zoom out far enough to see a whole world map, and close enough to see street names, parks, and other landmarks.
There is a real safety concern in others being able to track your daily movements, including where you go to school, the route you walk every day, and where you live. Users may not realize this feature is on all the time and updates your location each time you open the app, not just when sharing to “My Stories.”
What can parents do?
Talk to your teen about:
- Setting the app to “Ghost Mode” which keeps their location private (the Bitmoji does not appear on the map).
- Ensuring their “friends” on Snapchat (and all social media) are people they have met in person
- Making sure they have downloaded Snapchat Kids (for those under 13), a limited version of the app that lets them to take photos and play with the fun filters, but does not allow them to connect with other users.
Share this important information with other parents and encourage others to sign-up for Cybertip.ca Alerts.