By BRIAN BOHNERT
SENIOR STAFF WRITER
A new feature on a popular social media app allows people to see exactly where you are, and it’s raising some serious safety concerns.
Snapchat recently launched its new Snap Map feature, which uses your phone’s GPS to show your friends exactly where you are in real time. Snapchat went live with the new location-sharing feature June 21 as a way for people to connect with nearby friends.
Every time the app is opened, Snap Map updates your current location — right down to the street you’re on — and shares it with your friends on a map.
While Snap Map was designed to bring nearby friends together, the new feature is drawing concern from local law enforcement who say it could put children and teens in danger.
“You’re giving someone access to where you are at all times,” said Fostoria Police Chief Keith Loreno. “You have to ask yourself, ‘How well do I know this person? Is it someone I trust like my own mother or is it someone who is just a friend of a friend of a friend?'”
“If somebody figures out where you’re at and they mean to cause you harm, it’s a life lesson that may end up costing a life,” he added. “You really have to be cautious.”
Loreno said he urges parents to monitor their children’s social media accounts, especially their activity on Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter. Knowing who their children are communicating with and what information they’re sending out into the world could be the difference between life and death.
“Be their parent, not their friend,” he said. “There are a lot of scary people out there. There are a lot of people whose whole lives are centered on causing harm, and you really have to be paranoid when it comes to your children.”
To access the Snap Map, pinch the camera on the Snapchat home screen and scroll around the map to see where friends are in your area or across the globe.
Tapping a friend’s Snapchat avatar will open their Story and show any photos or videos taken in the area. Users can also send their friends a direct message via the interactive map.
After the update installs the Snap Map, the user’s phone automatically defaults to “Ghost Mode,” which hides all location settings until they are changed via the app’s settings. From there, users can pick and choose which friends can see their location.
Loreno said parents should be cognizant of who their children are friends with on the app before releasing any personal information such as geographic location.
“As a parent with a child, if the child has administrative rights to those settings, he or she may not recognize the inherent dangers,” he said. “Can they really, conscientiously make that decision?”
Launched in September 2011, Snapchat allows users to send their friends photos and videos — which last only seconds before disappearing.
According to a February report released by Snap Inc., the company behind Snapchat, the app has more than 160 million users per day, with most of them being between the ages of 18-34.