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Is your child sharing their location with hundreds of “friends” online? Are they unwillingly giving away personal information that can put their privacy in danger? Our GKIS tools can help with that. In this article, we cover the ways kids overshare online and provide insightful tips and strategies to keep your child safe.

The GKIS Mission

GKIS helps families achieve screen sanity, prevent digital injury, and form deeper, more meaningful relationships. We don’t have to give up screens to be safe. GKIS offers tools and strategies that keep the joys of childhood discovery alive for all of us in today’s overtasked world.

Oversharing

Teenagers love to share what they are doing online, whether it’s posting what they’re eating, uploading selfies, or posting pictures of their pet. Sharing daily life online is fairly common; we adults are guilty of it too. But sharing location data can be particularly dangerous for teens because it offers a bridge from online contacts meeting them online to meeting them offline.

According to Pew Research Center, 71% of teens post their school name, 71% post the name of the city or town they live in, and 20% post their phone number.[1] Further, 36% of older teen’s Facebook friends are people they have never met in person.[2]

Although teens understand that oversharing can be dangerous, few have the life experience to understand exactly how it can be dangerous. When I was a teenager, the more “likes” I got on a photo or the more “friends” or “followers” I had on social media, the better I felt about myself and my online presence. I accepted friend requests from mutual friends who I had never met before, along with accepting requests from strangers. In my teenage mind, there wasn’t any harm in letting strangers see my online profiles. I felt that I would be okay as long as I wasn’t sending them my address. It didn’t occur to me that this data could be used to predict my location or even that anyone could have that kind of predatory intent.

Dr. Bennett shared a story with us where she worked on the production of the Lifetime TV show, I Catfished My Kid. In the show, producers created a poster board map (like detectives do) with yarn connecting the teens’ movements throughout the day for a week. With this data, they were able to predict daily habits like location, activities, and even who they hang out with.

How is Location Data Shared?

Instagram

One way location is shared on social media is through geotagged photos. A geotag is an electronic tag that assigns a geographical location to a photo or video posted on social media or other websites.[3] Geotags are commonly used to share what restaurant or city someone is in and are very popular on Instagram.

If your teen has a public profile and decides to post a photo on Instagram with a geotag, not only will their friends be able to see where they are, but users around the world can too. By simply clicking on that location’s tag, your teen’s photo will pop up as a current or recent visitor.

Another way location is shared on Instagram is by the use of hashtags. If your teen has a public profile and adds hashtags to their posts, their photos will show up as recent users of whatever hashtag they use, similar to the geotag feature. Hashtags are commonly used to have other users find their posts quicker and potentially gain more followers and traffic on their profile. However, that could be a privacy concern for younger users.

Facebook

The check-in feature on Facebook is similar to geotags. Facebook users “check-in” as an announcement to friends that they are visiting a particular location. Once checked-in, it appears on the user’s Facebook profile.

Snapchat

The SnapMap feature on Snapchat can also be a location risk. SnapMap allows your teen to share their location with their Snapchat friends every time they open the app. The SnapMap feature is a default, meaning it is automatically on so your teen might not even know that they are sharing their location. This is another privacy issue and may be a safety concern if your child accepts friend requests from strangers.[4] 

Helpful Tips and Tools to Protect Your Child on Social Media

  • Set up a digital contact like our free Connected Family Screen Agreement and have ongoing, informative conversations with your kids about online safety. Our GKIS blog offers credible, interesting topics that will feed an ongoing agenda. Register for our Connected Family Screen Agreement to get on our weekly email list!
  • Set up your home to optimize best-use screen practices using our Connected Family Course for school-age kids.
  • Limit location sharing in Settings. On an iPhone, go to Settings and remove the location by clicking on the social media name > Location > select Never, Ask Next Time, While Using the App, or Always. You also have the option to turn off “Precise Location” meaning apps can only determine your approximate location
  • Don’t allow your child to have social media accounts until they are ready (we recommend after 13 years old or late middle school).
  • Require that your child set social media to private and only accept friend requests from family and friends they know in real life
  • Have your child change to the “Ghost Mode” on Snapchat (their location will no longer be viewable on SnapMap)
  • Monitor your child’s social media accounts using tools recommended on our GKIS Screen Safety Toolkit.

Thanks to CSUCI intern, Remi Ali Khan for researching common ways teens overshare on social media for this article.

I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,

Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty

Photo Credits

Photo by Cottonbro from Pexels

Photo by Pixabay from Pexles

Photo by Pew Research Center

Works Cited

Deahl, D. (2017, June 23). Snapchat’s newest feature is also its biggest privacy threat. Retrieved November 04, 2020, from https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/23/15864552/snapchat-snap-map-privacy-threat

Dove, J. (2020, October 07). How to Remove Location Data From Your iPhone Photos in iOS 13. Retrieved November 04, 2020, from https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/how-to-remove-location-data-from-iphone-photos-in-ios-13/

Madden, M., Lenhart, A., Cortesi, S., Gasser, U., Duggan, M., Smith, A., & Beaton, M. (2020, August 17). Teens, Social Media, and Privacy. Retrieved November 04, 2020, from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2013/05/21/teens-social-media-and-privacy/

Oxford Languages and Google – English. (n.d.). Retrieved November 04, 2020, from https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/

Remi Ali Khan
Remi Ali Khan
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