Teens and Location Apps and Services

(From an article on Commonsense Media)

Social networking is for connecting online but new programs and apps now allow teens to share their physical location as well. Apps such as Facebook Places, FourSquare, Loopt, and Gowalla use GPS information (on mobiles) to allow users to post their actual location in real time.

Image courtesy: Danny Warfield on Flickr cc

As more location/status programs and apps become available studies are finding more teens are using them. According to a study done in 2010 McAfee Inc., 69% of kids 13-17 have included their physical location in their social networking status update. While these results are from an American study, Australian statistics of internet use are usually similar in results with a faster uptake time.

There are two things to be aware of when considering using these programs:

  • Safety
  • Privacy

Once you post your location, your whereabouts is available to anyone your settings allow. If your status is public so is your location.You may wish to also look at the terms and conditions of the app or program, check if they allow third parties access to your information as well.

Also, advertisers use social mapping to target customers and potential customers. They increase sales by creating incentive schemes to encourage visits to their business. For example, Gowalla and FourSquare, have a gaming aspect that rewards people for visiting certain places and doing interesting things.

TIPS:

  1. Stop and think! Do you really want everyone to know where you are all the time? How safe is this?
  2. Stop and check! If you do decide to use one of these programs, are your security/privacy settings set to ‘friends only’. (This is still not 100% guaranteed, but worth setting).
  3. Stop and think! Who will be receiving these location messages? Do you trust your friends enough not to spread the location of your party or whereabouts to people you don’t want to know? There are responsible behaviour issues at stake. Remember once the information is out there, its out of your control..
  4. Stop and think! Don’t you have enough ads in your life already? Carefully targetted advertising only makes people feel that they are missing out or need more.

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