As a shooter rampaged through their school with a semi-automatic weapon, students hiding in lockdown were uploading Snapchat stories to an interactive map - allowing kids around the world to watch the atrocity live.
The recent Snap Map feature allows anyone on SnapChat to zoom in and click on any location around the world to see what people are "snapping" about in that vicinity. It even works with a browser, making it that much more accessible to all ages!
The privacy implications are potentially catastrophic, say critics. And the risk that children may be traumatised by the live violence they may encounter is nothing short of chilling.
The use of Snap Map during the Florida school shooting is a stark example of how technology moves so rapidly that features like this can be imposed upon without warning. And then we as a community of parents are left to deal with the implications. It leaves cyber experts like Denise DeRosa speechless.
Parents Unaware and Unprepared
Such developments leave parents utterly unprepared - because at no point in history have we ever been faced with these issues of immediate, un-moderated, unfiltered, live content being forced into our children's awareness.
Violence isn’t the threat to children using Snap Map, citing adult-only venues that have begun using the feature to broadcast straight to users - many of them children. Strip clubs even record their performers over the Snap Map to entice possible clients to enter.
Like Giving a Baby a Weapon
Other critics observe Snapchat is exploiting naive users - including children and teens - to gain marketshare. And that Snapchat is doing so without regard for the consequences of such sharing for their own safety or those who may be involved in an unfolding disaster like a live shooting.
“It’s the equivalent of giving a weapon to a baby,” observes David Vaile, co-convenor of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Community at the University of NSW.
There are two things that make Snap Map different from, say, Facebook Live or other platforms that broadcast in real time. One is how easy it is to access content. The other is the way it pinpoints users’ locations.
Also worrying is the potential for staging criminal activities - whether actual events or hoaxes - to gain attention from an audience.
Be a Smart Digital Parent With Cyber Expert Advice
Parents today need to be aware of the dangers of digital media but they can't all be experts at it. That's why Family Zone cyber experts warned parents to edit setting on the SnapChat app as soon as it came out, mid 2017.