Police urge users to use caution with new Snapchat map feature

Posted at 10:20 PM, Jun 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-28 22:39:49-04

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. -- Snapchat has a new feature that has many parents and law enforcement concerned.

Snapchat is one of the hottest social media applications and it's newest feature is grabbing a lot of attention. Simply swipe two fingers together and voila, there's the Snap Map. Once activated you can allow your friends to see your exact location, down to the building.

Some law enforcement officials are urging parents to delete their child's Snapchat from their phones or monitor it closely.

"It's like any other piece of technology, but my concern is the abuse of it," said Dr. Joseph Thomas Jr., chief of police for Muskegon Heights.

Thomas says the new feature has him worried.

"You have predators out there and they monitor that type of thing," said Thomas.

Users have the option to go into Ghost Mode where no one else can see you, but when turned off, all of your friends can track you. Thomas says it's who you allow to be on that list that's the problem.

"We want young people, adults as well as underage people to be careful telling people where you are, especially when you're going to be alone or in an isolated place somewhere, that's not good," said Thomas.

If a user posts a story to Snapchat and selects "Our Story" then that picture or video can be seen by the public if they click on that location on the map.

In a statement from Snapchat, they said:

"The safety of our community is very important to us and we want to make sure that all Snapchatters, parents and educators have accurate information about how the Snap Map works. With Snap Map, location-sharing is off by default for all users and is completely optional. Snapchatters can choose exactly who they want to share their location with, if at all, and can change that setting at any time."

Chief Thomas' advice to parents is simple.

"Learn how to operate a cell phone so that you can turn off these applications and show your child how to turn them off because you don't want your child or girlfriend or husband to be using some of these devices," said Thomas. "Explain to them why you don't want to use this device and hope that they don't go back and turn it back on.

Just like anything, Chief Thomas says Snapchat isn't the problem; it's how people intend to use it is where the potential for danger lies. He suggests turning on Ghost Mode if you're alone or traveling somewhere by yourself. He also advises parents to know if your kids are using it.