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How to Protect Your Teens While Using Snapchat’s New GPS Technology

Are your kids on Snapchat? If so, the newly launched Map Explore feature allows people to track your child down in a matter of seconds. Follow these tips to block predators, stalkers and criminals from knowing your child’s location!

Snapchat, the powerful social media app used by 187 million people launched Map Explore on March 22, 2018 to enhance its current Snap Map features. In addition to its GPS tracking system, Map Explore now alerts users when friends want to get together, as well as what they are up to based on their location. Not only can social media abusers easily get onto Snapchat and find other users, now Map Explore ALERTS them to updates of all “friends” who are accessible through Snap Map!

Potential dangerous threats

This new feature has potentially dangerous ramifications and parents need to be aware of the possible threats. A quick Google search for Snapchat-related crimes brings up a number of recent scares, from student’s hostility toward others, to theft and gun-related injuries.

Unlike other GPS tools, Snap Map only updates location when users have the app open. In other words, their location is based on where they are when using the app. Despite the fact that the GPS is extremely accurate, once users close out of the app, their location is not necessarily in real time. This is positive news. Unfortunately, many teens are on Snapchat 24/7 so their location is constantly updated. This dangerous GPS tracking alert is alarming because it opens the door to predators or disgruntled friends.

Precautions parents should take

One of the best ways to safeguard teens is to simply not download the app. However, for older trustworthy teens who want to use Snapchat for communication, there are several precautions parents should take. Before you decide which route to go with this new Snap Map feature, watch this short video on your possible setting options.

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First, to access and disable Snap Map, pinch inward to zoom out from the main screen that comes up at first launch. (This is the opposite of the motion used to zoom in on objects.) Once in Snap Map, the settings icon is in the top right-hand corner. Tap on Settings to find three location modes:

  • Ghost Mode (nobody can see user’s location)
  • My Friends (everyone who is a friend can see the user)
  • Select Friends (only chosen friends can see the user)

To Access My Friends or Select Friends, Ghost Mode must be turned off.

Secondly, with the recent updates to Snapchat, the app will ask the user to choose the location access. Location access choices are “Never” or “While Using the App.” In this way, Snapchat locations are only available when using the app. After changing settings in Snapchat, go into your phone’s settings and scroll down to Snapchat. Click on Snapchat, and you will see all of the apps that Snapchat wants to access. Location is the first option. Click on location, and then choose “Never.” I found that in my own Snapchat account, even though I was in Ghost Mode, the app’s main settings still allowed Snapchat to access my location while using the app. I had to change this to “Never.”

Snapchat is not an app for younger people to use. My own kids had to be sixteen and show they had the maturity to use this particular app. They only have a handful of close friends and family who can see them on Snap Map. My girls are all now young adults who have shown they are trustworthy in their social media usage.


Criteria I used to teach my kids responsibility regarding social media

  1. They were not seeking man’s approval. In other words, they based their self-worth on their position in Christ instead of how many unknown or casual aquaintances they could add as friends.
  2. They knew not to add people they didn’t know well. I drilled this concept into them from the time social media became available.
  3. They learned since they were young, to avert their eyes so that questionable text and pictures were not an attention grabber for them.
  4. They have healthy friendships with others whom they have vetted. Anyone with questionable character is not a friend on social media.
  5. They use Snapchat as a fun way to communicate and be silly, rather than as a way to promote self. Snapchat filters can be a lot of fun!
  6. They have not given me any reason to distrust them. We instilled and expected integrity as soon as our kids could talk and walk.
  7. We had the luxury of homeschooling, so I was able to talk with them frequently, as well as monitor their social media usage and answer any questions they had.

Despite maturity, teens may still not be ready for Snapchat. If you want to read an excellent (short) book which will guide you through a series of questions to see if your kids are ready for technology and social media, you must get a copy of Matt McKee’s book, “Parent Chat: The Technology Talk for Every Parent.” It’s an excellent read that will help you ask all the right questions and teach your teens how to stay safe while on tech gadgets.

In this day and age, boys are especially hard to protect. Parents, we must raise these boys to be Godly, trustworthy men. It’s a daunting task to raise them into men of character who will become loving husbands, fathers, and community leaders. My teenage son is still not on any social media by his own choice. This is an important key concept: he has chosen to avoid social media in order to protect his eyes and heart. Please hear me: developing their intrinsic character is your number one weapon in protecting your children.

Snapchat is an app that, if you choose to allow your kids to use, requires strong parental monitoring and discussion. Keep those lines of communication open and train from the inside out. You will reap the fruits of your labor as your children will learn to make correct and mature decisions that will last a lifetime.


SHARE THIS POST by clicking on the share button above so more parents who have questions about this app and it’s many features, will find the answers they are looking for.

Gina McAndrew is the contributing writer for this article. She is the Founder and Director of Potter’s Clay Applied Arts, a program that equips students to glorify God through the arts. She has been teaching art and written communications to students of all ages for 15+ years, focusing on the practical applications of these subjects. As a former upper-level manager and homeschool mom of four children, Gina continuously seeks to implement new and innovative ideas at Potter’s Clay.

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Featured image by Trinity Powell.

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