Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD urges parents to be cautious of new Snapchat feature

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has expressed concerns regarding the potential for exploitation of the new Snapchat feature to target children.

The phone App Snapchat has launched a new update which allows ‘friends’ to view your current location, and is set as a default setting.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire has asked parents who have children that use Snapchat to be vigilant, and has also asked that Minister Katherine Zappone and Minister Denis Naughton to introduce stronger protections & safeguards for children using the internet.

Deputy Ó Laoghaire said: “There are clearly risks to Children in using this feature on the App. Particularly where parents are unaware of their children’s online activity. Without safeguards, it has the potential to expose children to many dangers, and that can’t be understated.

“As is the nature of the internet, people can connect with others globally at the mere click of a button, and it would be naïve to think children limit all conversations to everyone they know on a personal level.

He said there was an increased risk for children to be exposed to bullying, stalking and strangers.

“In Snapchat, depending on the security settings the user has, they don’t have to manually say where they are, the location of the person using the phone will automatically update as soon as the Snapchat app is open, creating the potential to share, not only location, but also home and school addresses.

“It is plain to see how this could be exploited by someone who wishes to target, exploit and abuse children.

“It is an option to turn it on to Ghost Mode, so that location isn’t shared, and I would encourage parents, to ensure their children do so. This should be the default, not the opposite.

“Snapchat should ensure that people take a conscious decision to share this information in a fully informed way, and with safeguards.”

“Another app named Simsimi has also been in the news of late, due to considerable incidence of bullying of children.

“As a State, we are miles behind in implementing the tools necessary to protect our children, some of which spend hours on the internet every single day.

“An online code of practice for providers and platforms, with a digital safety commissioner is required here. Parents of course have a responsibility to remain vigilant, and know what their children have access to in so far as is possible.

“It is imperative that both the Minister for Children and Minister for Communications collaborate in dealing with the issue of Child Protection online. It must be done sooner rather than later as I do not wish to see a horror story in the media being the catalyst of change in this regard.”