Two New Worrying App Developments for Teens and Tweens
This week the social media app Snapchat launched Snap Map. It is a location tracking feature. A map shows where users are and sometimes what they are doing, as pictured above.
There has been a lot of media around the release of this update and it has been described as ‘a paedophile’s dream’. Many apps have this geolocation service, however, the upset around this one is that Snapchat is used predominantly by tweens and young teens.
It is possible to turn off Snap Map, but it is turned on by default in the latest app update. So unless your child knows that it is there, and that they can turn it off, it is probably still on. When I surveyed classes at Santa Maria College today, about 25% of girls didn’t know that Snap Map could be turned off. So, it is definitely worth having a chat about it.
In order to stop Snap Map showing your location, you have to turn on “Ghost Mode”. To do this follow these steps:
- When in photo-taking mode, pinch the screen to open Snap Map
- Touch the settings cog in the top right corner of the screen
- Tap Ghost Mode to switch off location sharing
Spotafriend is an app marketing itself as ‘only for teenagers’. Its function is to connect teens with others around them. The app works by swiping right on the pictures of those you would like to become friends with. If both users accept, it’s a match and they can begin chatting privately. The app’s promotional material insists it is not a dating app, but it is remarkably similar to the adult site Tinder.
The problem with this app is that it actively encourages kids to connect with, and form friendships with, complete strangers. It is a logical progression that kids would then meet those people as the geolocation functionality shows if they are in close proximity. There is no guarantee that the profiles of others are genuine. It is a perfect platform for paedophiles to groom children. This is one app I would actively discourage kids from using.
If kids do use this app, The Office of the eSafety Commissioner gives these tips to kids:
- Be careful about sharing personal information, such as your full name, phone number, email and address.
- Leave personal contact information out of your Spotafriend profile. Protect your identity until you are comfortable enough with someone to share it.
- Don’t meet up with someone you’ve met on Spotafriend alone, without telling a trusted adult, and make sure it’s always in a public space.