Picture this: You’re driving with your middle schooler. She points to a house and says, “Oh, Maddi lives here.” You glance over and realize that she’s opened her Snapchat Snap Map, and it’s dotted with her friends’ icons — which show her friends’ physical location at that moment, in real-time.
Now, you have questions. How does Snapchat location work? Does this thing track their every move? And how can you turn their location off?
This guide will show you how Snap Maps work, how to turn off location on Snapchat, and how to guide your kids through Snap Map safety like a pro.
Snap Map is a feature in Snapchat, a popular social media platform. Snap Map uses a device’s GPS to place users on a virtual map that’s visible to other Snapchat account holders. The Snap Map also allows users to view snaps (photos) posted at a particular location or event.
When a Snapchat user opens the app, their Bitmoji — a personalized cartoon avatar — pops up on a map. As the user moves through their day, their Bitmoji travels along on the Snap Map in real time. Depending on their privacy settings (we’ll get into that in a minute), the user’s friends can see their location.
Snap Map also combines users’ snaps location, allowing people to view galleries of photos posted in a town, neighborhood, or event. When a lot of Snapchat users are active in one place — like a big football game — a red “heat map” appears, along with photos from the event.
This can be great when there’s a fun community event that you might not have known about, but not so great when a bunch of high schoolers roll into a party that they weren’t invited to.
Before you can talk to your kids about Snap Map safety, it’s important you understand how it works. The best way to do that is by seeing it for yourself. Simply open up Snapchat (you’ll need to create an account) and click on the map icon at the bottom of the screen. Your Snap Map will pop right up. It’s that easy.
While Snap Map has some definite upsides, such as crowdsourced images of cultural moments, parents should take the time to help their children understand how to be safe with their location information.
As with anything in parenting, knowledge is key. That’s why we’ve created a handy FAQ to answer some of the most common Snap Map questions. Read on to learn about the various tools your kids can use to protect their privacy while enjoying Snapchat.
To know if your child’s Snap Map is on, open Snapchat and click the map icon. Next, click the gear icon to open settings.
If Ghost Mode is in the green “on” position, other Snapchat users can’t see their location. Ghost Mode is a way to hide a person’s location in the app.
When your child is in Ghost Mode, their current location cannot be viewed. We recommend turning Ghost Mode on.
However, your child’s Snapchats will still display on the community map feature called Our Story. To avoid having pictures showing in Our Story, they must turn off Snapchat location access in the phone’s settings.
Snap Map location updates in real time, but only when your child is using Snapchat. If it’s running in the background, it shows their last location for 24 hours.
It can be hard to tell when Snapchat is running, so if you want to hide their location altogether, turn on Ghost Mode.
There’s no way for someone to see you’ve viewed their location on Snap Map. However, they can control if you see it in the first place. Users can select which of their friends is allowed to view their location on Snap Map and change permissions at any time.
While Snap Map won’t show you’re online in the same direct way apps like Facebook Messenger will, it’s easy for someone to figure out when you’re on. Anyone who your child is friends with on Snapchat can simply click on their Bitmoji to view a timestamp indicating when they last opened Snapchat.
Snapchat uses real-time location tracking. So, your child’s Snap Map continuously updates while they’re using the app. When they close Snapchat, Snap Map stops updating — but their last location remains visible for 24 hours. To disable this, you must turn off location access for Snapchat in the phone’s settings.
You can’t see who viewed your Snap Map story, but you can control who sees it in the first place. If you open your Snap Map and go to settings, you can select which Snapchat friends do and don’t have access to your map.
Snap Maps is a feature within Snapchat that allows users to see where their friends are in real time, along with photos taken at a location. Using built-in tools on the app, parents can help their kids navigate privacy concerns related to location sharing and turn Snapchat location off. With a few easy steps, kids can be on their way to enjoying their apps while their parents rest easy knowing they are protected.
Features such as the Snap Map are just one of many reasons that it's important parents stay connected to what their kids are doing online. While BrightCanary doesn't currently cover Snapchat, the app allows parents to remotely monitor Instagram and TikTok, as well as YouTube, Google, and text messages on Apple devices. Download BrightCanary today and keep your child safe online.