Last month the photo-sharing app released its new Snap Maps feature enabling users to share their location with everyone on their Snapchat contacts list to such a precise degree that is possible to tell what part of a building a user is in or if the user is travelling in a car or listening to music.
NSPCC Scotland is urging young people to hide their location using the ‘ghost mode’ setting, and has issued advice to parents amid a surge in calls to its Childline service related to online bullying via the social media app.
The Glasgow Childline base alone received 48 contacts from young people across the UK feeling bullied, upset or having been exposed to online sexual abuse on the photo sharing service in the space of five weeks.
The NSPCC is also calling on the Government and other law-makers to force social networks to offer Safe Accounts to under 18s – with location settings switched off as default.
It believes Snap Maps could leave users vulnerable to grooming, stalking, bullying, controlling behaviours or feeling excluded and encourages users to think about who is on their Snapchat contact list, and who they are sharing their location with.
Research from Netaware, the NSPCC’s online safety website, found that 36 per cent of young people had added someone online that they don’t know in the last six months, a figure which comes as police and schools around the country issue warnings on using Snap Maps.
NSPCC Child Safety Online expert Rose Bray said: “Even limiting Snap Maps to the ‘friends only’ setting is risky if those contacts include people you don’t know.
“This highlights why it’s vital the Government forces social networks to offer Safe Accounts to under-18s, with the highest privacy settings and location settings locked off.
“Young people can hide their location using Ghost Mode, which can be switched on from the Snap Maps screen.
“It is important parents have regular conversations with young people about staying safe online, and making sure that they know how to protect their privacy.
“The NSPCC’s Share Aware materials online can help parents to start these conversations”