Snapchat’s latest feature: Snap Map

Snapchat has gained considerable popularity with young people since its creation in 2011, offering them a way to share their snaps with a unique transient aspect. You may have heard about the latest Snapchat feature, Snap Map, which has gained considerable media attention since its launch in June 2017. Snap Map uses a device’s location information to locate users on a virtual map that is visible to other Snapchat users. When first using the Snap Map feature, users are required  to choose who can see their location on the map. The options include: My friends, Only me (‘Ghost Mode’), or Selected friends. Dependent on the settings chosen, a user’s precise location will be visible to their selected audience. Many young people may have acquaintances, or even people they have never met as ‘friends’ on Snapchat. Consequently, this could mean that those people are able to see a young person’s location on Snap Map.

On Snap Map, each user is represented by a ‘bitmoji’- an animated avatar that can be customised. An individual’s bitmoji is located on the map at their precise location- including road names  on a ‘street view’ of the buildings and surrounding area. As a user moves, so too does their bitmoji and movements can be seen by other users as they occur in real time.

Why have Snapchat created this feature?

Snapchat state that the Snap Map offers a “new way to explore the world”, by enabling its users to see where their friends are and “what’s going on around them”. Snapchat propose that the new feature will assist users in  meeting up with friends owing to the highly accurate geo-location information. Indeed, with colourful animated bitmojis that can be customised, Snap Maps is  likely to appeal to young people as a way to stay in touch with friends in a novel way. As well as their friends’ location, users are also able to see what is going on in their local area and further afield by viewing ‘Live Stories’. These are collaborative Snapchat ‘Stories’ that show videos from users who share the same geographical location. For more information on Snapchat stories, visit our Thinkuknow parents and carers website.

Why might young people like this feature?

For some young people, showcasing how much fun they are having can be a key motivation to share their location with others. However, the ability of the audience to see a highly edited glimpse of what peers are doing can evoke negative emotions including FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  Viewing only the best parts of what others are doing can perpetuate feelings of envy and comparison between young people as they see others (some of whom may be friends) having fun in their absence. When thinking about the reasons children share location, consider the associated emotions young people experience. This includes FOMO as well as the positive feelings that derive from producing images and videos that show the ‘best version’ of themselves. As professionals, understanding FOMO and the drive to show only positives can help us have a more empathetic understanding of why location sharing can be appealing to young people and improve the conversations with young people around sharing their personal information.

Evidently, many popular apps and sites use a device’s location information and encourage users to ‘tag’ or highlight their location with friends or followers. Snap Map in particular has sparked worries pertaining to the ability to ‘track’ young people’s movements and the accuracy of the location information displayed.

This highlights the importance of:

Speaking openly and honestly with young people about location sharing as it becomes significantly more accurate and accessible.

Have regular conversations about the impact of sharing location with other people – some of whom may only be acquaintances or strangers.

Encourage them to think about the potential risks that location sharing might bring. This conversation can be an opportunity to ask young people how they think they can keep themselves safe, for example ways they can ‘send their location’ to friends and family  privately without broadcasting this information to other people.

 If you’re working with young people who use social media, this film by Cifas, (UK’s leading fraud prevention service) is a light-hearted approach to a serious issue and highlights the ease in which information can be gleaned from their social media platforms.