The Snapchat Snap Map and How to Keep Your Child’s Location Private

By Andrea Karin Nelson
January 25, 2023
Five young teens watching smartphones along a fence with location pin graphics above their heads and a snapchat thought bubble

Here's the scenario: you're driving past a neighborhood and your middle school daughter points to a house and says, "oh, didn't realize Maddi lived there." You glance over and realize that she's opened the Snap Map in Snapchat, and it's dotted with her friends' Bitmoji icons. And those icons indicate their physical location in this moment.

Now, you have questions. Do my kids show up on the Snap Map? Does this thing track their every move? Can just anyone see where they are? Can I turn their location off?

This guide will leave you feeling ready to guide your kids through Snap Map safety like a pro. 

What is Snap Map?

A few years ago, Snapchat introduced a feature called Snap Map which utilizes a device’s GPS feature 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. 

How Does Snap Map Work? 

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 by 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—say 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 in to a party that they weren’t invited to. 

How to Open Snap Map

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. 

Snap Map and Your Child

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. So read on to learn about the various tools your kids can use to protect their privacy while enjoying Snapchat. 

Snap Maps FAQs

How do I know if my Snap Map is on?

To know if your 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 your location. Ghost Mode is a way to hide your location in the app. 

How do I turn off my Snap Map?

When you’re in Ghost Mode, your current location cannot be viewed. However, your Snap Chats will still display on the community map feature called Our Story. To avoid your pictures showing in Our Story, you must turn off Snapchat location access in your device’s settings. 

When does Snap Map update my location?

Your Snap Map location updates in real time, but only when you’re using Snapchat. If it’s running in the background, it shows your last location for 24 hours. 

It can be hard to tell when Snapchat is running, so if you want to hide your location, turn on Ghost Mode. 

Can someone see if you look at their location in Snap Map?

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. 

Does Snap Map show when you're active?

While Snap Map won’t show you’re active in the same direct way apps like Facebook Messenger will, it’s easy for someone to figure out when you’re on. Anyone who you’re friends with on Snapchat can simply click on your Bitmoji to view a timestamp indicating when you last opened Snapchat.

How often does Snap Map update? 

Snapchat uses real-time location tracking, meaning while you’re using the app, your Snap Map continuously updates. When you close Snapchat, your Snap Map stops updating but your last location remains visible for 24 hours. To disable this, you must turn off location access for Snapchat in your device settings. 

Can you see who viewed your Snap Map story?

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. With a few easy steps, kids can be on their way to enjoying the app while their parents rest easy knowing they are protected.