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26 June 2017
By Rebecca Avery

Snapchat’s new Snap Maps feature- what school’s need to know

Last week, Snapchat announced a new feature to their photo and video sharing app called ‘Snap Maps’,  which allows users to share and access ‘snaps’ by location. “We've built a whole new way to explore the world! See what's happening, find your friends, and get inspired to go on an adventure! It's easy to get started — just pinch to zoom out and view the Map!” 

What is it?

With this new update, users will be able to see their friends and other users on a map view. By clicking on a friend’s “Actionmoji”, users can then view their ‘stories’ or begin a chat. With this in mind, it is important that users understand exactly who can see their location and access their ‘snaps’. The first time you access ‘Snap Maps’, a tab will appear which gives you the option to choose who can see your location: My friends; select friends; only me (Ghost mode).

Users can also change their preference at any time by accessing their location preferences in the settings options. For more information about changing privacy and location settings on Snapchat, have a look at the latest blog post from UK Safer Internet Centre.

What should we be telling parents?

This feature is not new, many other apps and social networks, such as Instagram, also use location services and map search facilities. The best approach is likely to be to focus on positive behaviours, safe usage and parenting, rather than on specific apps. As per our previous advice, unless there has been a specific incident relating to the app, then we would not necessarily recommend sending out blanket ‘warning notices’ or letters to parents. Instead, this may be a good opportunity to remind parents about the importance of discussing online safety and actively engaging with their children online.

You may find it useful to share these conversation starter ideas available from Childnet  or the NSPCC Share Aware resources. If schools do decide to share Snapchat specific information with  parents and carers,  the following links provide general advice about the app, including their community guidelines, privacy settings and how to block content or other users:

What should we be telling children and young people?

When talking to children and young people about online safety, it is vital that we (as adults) acknowledge the attraction and exciting opportunities that new technology offers, as well as offering sensible advice and guidance. It may not be necessary to name the app or service specifically, but you may want to use this opportunity to start talking to pupils about location services and how to keep themselves safe.

Why not let the young people themselves lead the discussion on how they might use this new technology and what the potential risks may be; encourage them to explore ways in which they can minimise the risks and keep themselves and others safe.

Empowering pupils to think critically about the online tools they use and their own behaviour is likely to be more effective than simply telling them not to use it! You may also find Childnet International’s top tips about location services useful to share with pupils. BBC Newsround has also published a useful video with information for children and young people.

What should I do if I still have a concern?

If a school or setting has concerns regarding a specific online safety incident that is likely to impact the safety and wellbeing of their community, they should follow their usual child protection procedures. If Kent schools/settings would like further advice regarding SnapChat or online safety then they can contact the Education Safeguarding Adviser (Online Protection) or the e-Safety Development Officer within the Education Safeguarding team. Ashley Assiter, e-Safety Development Officer