Your Smartphone, Your Kids, and Their Safety

Dear Universe,

We’re out on a date for the night and our kids are home alone. Here’s our address and a map to our house.

Sincerely,

Mom and Dad

That’s ridiculous. No parent would ever say that.

I would never say that.

Except we do it all the time. Sure, we don’t do it intentionally, but the fingerprints we leave on social media do indeed tell the world where we are, what we are doing, how long we’ll be doing it, and how to find the people we care about.

Your Smartphone + Your Location

I love the GPS functionality of my iPhone. It gets me where I need to go, it helps me find what I’m looking for, and it’s completely eliminated my use of a stand-alone GPS device in my car.

But that same functionality, what Apple calls Location Services and Android calls Location Access, can also record and share my exact location at any given moment if I let it. (Within about 10 feet) And that’s great when I’m lost in a National Forest. But it can be a safety hazard when I’m posting on Instagram.

In fact, I find the geotagging of photos to be an obvious safety problem that most parents seem to either not understand or not see as a risk. But your photos geotags and/or Exif data can record your exact GPS location. Depending on your phone and your network, that means an innocent picture posted online can publicly post your exact location.

An Example

Let’s say someone is paying attention and they are interested in punching me. They can fairly easily find me and my wife online, with minimal digging figure out where we live and where we go. (sorry folks, that’s true for you as well)

My Instagram Feed's Geotags
My Instagram Feed’s Geotags

Now, if you simply overlay my other activity… say my tweets… with my location, you can pretty quickly tell where I am and what I’m doing.

And that person who wanted to punch me in the face could probably find me and commit that crime. Yeah for them and boo for my nose.

[Note: It’s not just Instagram that does this. Most social apps want to geotag your images, videos, and posts. Why? Simple. They’d like to market to you based on your location.]

What Does This Have to Do With Your Kids?

It’s not a good idea for your kids to post images online that display their exact location. That’s common sense.

Just like we don’t want to broadcast the location of our home on purpose, we want our kids to be careful about what they post. Simply put, we don’t want to accidentally put their safety at risk with geotag info on images, or on apps, etc.

So that’s why the whole family has disabled geotagging of images on our devices cameras as well as become pretty selective of which apps we allow access to our location.

For instance, on my daughters iPhone we only have Location Services activated for Maps and Find My Phone. If she wants to turn on Location Services for another app she’s supposed to ask us.

How Do I Disable My Camera’s Geotagging Features?

Android

Step 1: Go to system settings

Screenshot_2014-01-06-10-13-08

Step 2: Click Location Access

Screenshot_2014-01-06-10-13-28

Step 3: Determine which applications should have access to your location. (I’d suggest turning it off for your camera.)

Screenshot_2014-01-06-10-13-45(1)

iOS7 (iPhone, iPad, iPod)

Step 1: Go to settings

photo(8)

Step 2: Scroll down to Privacy

photo(9)

Step 3: Click on Location Services

photo(10)

Step 4: Adjust your settings per app

photo(11)

Questions about this? Leave me a comment and I’ll do the best I can to help you.

 

Published by Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

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12 Comments

  1. Hate to say this but this seems like an over reaction. 100 years ago everyone knew where you were all the time. And since the vast vast majority of violent crimes are commited by people you know …. Refor kind of a waste

  2. Thank you for sharing this useful information. very useful for children and as well as I, in this way makes it easy to know where the arriving children that parents do not worry. the development of technology increasingly sophisticated technology will also grow.

  3. Hi,
    In regard to your discussion, I would recommend an android phone application that is quite useful for the purpose. I use an app named “GPS Privacy” that automatically deletes the GPS location tags if the photo is taken in a privacy area – like around your home, school, work, etc. This way you don’t have to remember whether you have the GPS tags on or off. Simply define your privacy areas, and your pictures won’t have GPS coordinates when made in these zones
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.shumoapp.gpsprivacy&hl=en
    Hope this would be helpful for you as well!

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