Education / Article

Geolocation and social media: Do you know the risks?

Kids Geotagging

Geolocation: Are your kids telling the whole world where they are?


“Checking in“ to one‘s current physical location using geolocation services and sharing it with a photo, video, or status has become common practice across social networks. Just like tagging friends or expressing moods with emoji, location is just another piece of the puzzle to attach to a new post to make it more relatable – and what wouldn’t kids and teens do to score some points (or, in this case, likes) with their friends?

While it might be harmless for kids to use location data to let their friends and family know what they’re up to, allowing the whole world to pinpoint their exact location on a map isn’t the best idea. Without the right privacy settings in place, there’s no guarantee that information about your children’s location won’t fall into the wrong hands – cyberbullies, stalkers, thieves, and crooks with various intentions can find publicly available data most useful.

But there’s no need to panic – you can make sure your kids stay safe when using social networks.

What matters most is for children to know the risks of sharing too much information online – including location data. With all the current buzz around data protection, chances are that your kids have already picked up the general idea of digital privacy. Chat with them and find out – you might end up learning a thing or two in the process.

To avoid inadvertent location sharing, teach your child to keep the GPS function on their mobile phone or tablet turned off, and to only enable when needed – e.g. to search for directions using maps, send their location to a friend they’re about to meet, etc.

Keep in mind that your child doesn’t necessarily need to upload location data to reveal their whereabouts to strangers – a photo from a recognizable location or a descriptive status publicly shared is enough to cause trouble. To keep risks at bay, teach your children how to protect their profiles by using the proper privacy settings for their social network accounts – what content to limit to friends and family, what to not share at all, and what details to pay attention to.

To put this into practice, start by reviewing current privacy settings. Make sure that the content your kids share in the future only reaches the eyes of those intended. For a more selective approach, you can create separate groups for close friends, family, and acquaintances to choose as the audience for each new post.

Also keep in mind that as a parent, you are the most likely to influence your children’s opinions and habits. Use it to be a good role model for them – if you’re active on social networks, stick to the same advice you would give your kids. This also includes respecting your child’s privacy when it’s you doing the posting.

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