Today I sailed a yacht across the Great Barrier Reef, skydived in Alaska, then watched a kitten fall off a sofa in Swansea, all before I got out of bed.
You’ve probably already been warned about Snap Map by adults. But what’s the big deal? After all, if you went skydiving, wouldn’t you want to share that experience with the world?
It’s true that some parents are terrified of the internet. My mum is one: when she read about Snap Map in the newspaper she told me I should just delete Snapchat. She means well, but when she warns me about things online it’s hard to know when she’s giving important advice, and when she’s just panicking over something she doesn’t really understand.
I’ve been using the internet for most of my life, and I’ve learned that my mum’s approach (“everything is dangerous! Never touch any of it!”) is a bad idea because you’d miss out on so many great things. But I’ve also made enough mistakes to know that thinking “everything is safe! INSTALL ALL THE APPS!” is dangerous and stupid.
The trick is to find a balance. So let me lay it out for you:
Technology is awesome.
You know what’s not so awesome? Telling random people where you sleep.
You already know this. You wouldn’t walk up to strangers and give them your address. Even among the people you know, there are some things you would only share with your closest friends or family. The danger with technology is you can share personal information without realising it — especially if you accept friend requests from strangers.
If you wouldn’t hand out your address to strangers on the street, don’t share your location to strangers on the internet.
You don’t ever need to share your location. If you choose to share it, make sure you think carefully first. Ask yourself:
- What information am I sharing?
- Who am I sharing it with?
- Is it safe to share this?
- Am I sharing it just the once, or am I sharing it for all my future posts too? (If so: remember to disable it afterwards!)
Here’s my rule: only share moments (not every second of your life).
I keep my location off on all my apps by default. If I see something I want to share with the world I’ll consider the list above and, if I still think it’s a good idea, when I post my photo or video I’ll select the location function (e.g. ‘Add Location’ on Instagram, or share to ‘Our Story’ on Snapchat) but just for that one post. Before sharing my next post I make sure that the location has gone back to being greyed out.
If I have something worth sharing — like I take a photo of the Eiffel Tower — sharing my location makes sense. But if I’m just walking around, not even taking pictures, then telling everyone exactly where I am is either boring or… kinda creepy. I don’t want people in college to know when I’m tweeting from the toilet!
How do I keep myself safe?
The good news is it’s very easy to keep your location private. In Snap Maps: tap on the cogs in the corner to see what mode you’re in. The safest is ‘Ghost Mode’, which doesn’t broadcast your location to anyone.
If your Snap Maps is set to ‘My Friends’ then everyone on your friends list can see your location (all the time!). I don’t recommend using this mode, but if you do then go through your friends list and make sure the only people on it are people you know in real life and who you trust! If you have random strangers on your friends list then they will be able to see where you live and that is NOT a good idea!
Is it just Snap Map?
Not at all! Loads of apps can see (and share) your location.
When in doubt, look for this symbol:
It means ‘location’ and clicking it will usually bring up options about sharing your location.
Here’s Twitter as an example:
For more organisations, services or info about online safety, check out our articles or contact Meic, the advocacy, advice and information helpline for children and young people in Wales – Freephone: 080880 23456 / Text: 84001, Instant Message.