Ages 13 - 17, Online privacy

Is It Safe for Teens to Use Location Apps?

By Common Sense Media®
Shot of an adorable little girl using a laptop while her brother uses a smartphone on the sofa

As with most technology, there are positives and negatives about teens using location apps on their phones. On the one hand, apps such as Find My Friends and Gone Out – Later Folks can help friends find each other at a concert or other large gathering. Parents also can use them to keep track of a teen’s location. And many of these apps have safety features that restrict who can see a user’s location. (Learn about Snapchat’s “Snap Map” feature which lets friends see each others’ locations on a map.)

On the other hand, because they broadcast your teen’s physical location, they open up the possibility of meeting strangers face to face or enabling someone to follow your teen without their knowledge. Also, these apps don’t work if the phone is turned off or out of battery, preventing you from tracking your kid, if that’s your goal.

Location-sharing apps also are big targets for advertisers who want to make your kid a customer. Checking in at the Starbucks earns him or her a coupon. Walking by a store in the mall prompts a “sale” alert on his or her phone. The data tracking that these apps do is a big overreach into teen’s consumer privacy, and companies are not always transparent about what they’re collecting and how they use the information.

Some teens will use these apps no matter what you say, so at least set ground rules: Have strict privacy settings, avoid public location-sharing, and consider requiring that you follow them. Get them to buy you a coffee with their coupon, too.

Do you think it’s safe for teens to use location apps?

© Common Sense Media. All rights reserved.

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