Last Updated on 24th February 2022

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Snapchat have recently announced the release of a new feature: Snapchat live location sharing. It will allow users to share their real-time location with friends via the app, expanding their existing Snap Map feature that launched in 2017.

What is Snap Map?

The Snap Map is a location sharing feature of Snapchat, which uses real time location to show users where you are and what building you are in.

It is not currently clear when the new live feature will be launched globally and at the time of publishing, it is not yet available.

Snapchat is a social media platform used to share photos, messages and short videos where content is customised with filters, text and stickers.

A Qustodio annual report found that children spent an average of 39 minutes a day on Snapchat and that Snapchat was the third most blocked app by parents in the UK.

Source: Snapchat

What is Snapchat Live Location Sharing?

The new Snapchat feature is essentially a virtual ‘buddy system’. It’s been released as part of the platform’s partnership with It’s On Us, an American government initiative for sexual assault education and prevention on US university campuses. However, the feature is expected to be rolled out globally and it’s unclear if the American-based partnership will be highlighted elsewhere.

Snap Map Vs Live Location

The existing Snap Map feature has allowed users to share their location since it was added to the app in 2017. However, unlike the Snap Map feature, the new Live Location tool gives a more specific location that’s updated live and will run even if the app is closed.

Snap Inc, the company behind Snapchat, has launched the tool as a security and safeguarding measure.

Snapchat's Live Location Feature

Source: Twitter

Why Would Young People Use Live Location?

The feature is designed to be used by close friends and family who want to share their location. For example, if two friends are meeting up in a busy location, then Snapchat Live Location can help them to find each other easily.

Its main use, however, is likely to be as a safety measure. For example, if a user is walking somewhere alone, this feature could provide extra reassurance to a friend or parent and to themselves. It can also be used by friends who are travelling home to separate houses and want to ensure the other is home safe.

For young people, feeling like they are connected with their friends is important – in-person and online. In a digital world where many friendships are created, sustained and showcased entirely online, any avenue for further connection is likely to be a hit with young people.

Snapchat’s Live Location will also hold a novelty factor, especially in a time when face-to-face connections and interactions have been sorely lacking. Connection is more important than ever to young people, so seeing what their friend is up to and sharing their activities will have a fun factor element.

illustration of location sharing on an iPhone

Over 250 million users use the Snap Map feature every month.

Source: Snap Inc

What We Know So Far

It’s important to note that this feature must be enabled on a use-by-use basis; it will be turned off by default and users will be required to opt-in.

  • Users must be mutual friends to share their live location.
  • A user cannot enable it for all friends at one time – however, it is currently unclear how many friends will be able to access the live location at once.
  • The feature can be enabled for 15 minutes, 1 hour, or up to 8 hours. It’s not designed to be used as a 24/7 location sharing tool.
  • While sharing, a user can choose to pause or turn off location sharing at any time. Doing so will not notify the other user.
  • The status of the live location is visible at the top of the chat window with that friend, with a timer at the top of the map counting down the sharing time.

Are There Safeguarding Risks with Snapchat’s Live Location?

This new feature has been created by Snapchat to mitigate risks, but with any location sharing app or platform there is always potential for abuse.

Location sharing should only be used with trusted friends and family members. However, it is possible that a young person could be coerced or pressured into enabling the feature with someone they don’t know in person. For example, when setting up a meeting with someone for the first time that they’ve met online or on a dating app.

Even with someone they know in real life, there are still risks. Young People who are in unhealthy relationships or friendships could be forced to share their location as part of a controlling behaviour. This includes those who are victims of domestic abuse from parents, carers, or other adults in their life.

There is also the prospect of someone screenshotting, using a second device to capture location information, or sharing this information with others, without the user’s knowledge or consent. This could result in bullying, stalking, or loss of control of personal information. For example, if a user was attending a private or sensitive personal appointment such as a medical appointment, the location information could be used to bully, bribe, or belittle them.

There is also the potential for this to be used by more than one person through screenshotting and information sharing, for example if a young person is being bullied by a group or forced into doing things that they don’t want to do, including illegal activities.

There have been previous concerns regarding Snapchat’s original map sharing feature, Snap Map. In one reported case, a child sex abuser was convicted after using the tool to target and force young girls into sending child sexual abuse imagery.

Top Tips

  • Speak to the young person in your care and emphasise the importance of not sharing their location or personal details with strangers or someone they don’t know very well.
  • Encourage them to talk to you first if someone asks them to share their location, whether on Snapchat or any other app/platform.
  • Have a conversation about why they might want to use a location sharing feature. It’s important not to interrupt, get frustrated or angry at their reasons as this may stop them from confiding in you if there’s something wrong, e.g., if they’re being pressured into sharing their location.
  • Once the Snapchat Live Location feature is released, try it out together (download it to your phone if you don’t already have it). Make sure the young person in your care knows how to select the correct friend to share information with and how to turn it off.
  • Discuss guidelines and rules around using the feature. For example, who they can share their location with and under what circumstances.
  • If you are comfortable that the young person in your care can use this feature safely and responsibly, here’s how to use it:

    1. Go to a friend’s profile 
    2. Tap ‘Share My Live Location” under the Snap Map section
    3. Choose the length of location sharing time – 15 minutes, 1 hour or 8 hours 
  • Check that the child or young person in your care can identify their trusted adults if they ever experience anything on Snapchat that upsets or makes them feel worried.
  • Visit Our Safety Centre to learn more about Snapchat’s privacy and safety settings.

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