On Special Assignment: Staying safe on social media

Posted at 9:36 AM, May 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-23 11:36:37-04

BILLINGS – A task force officer with the Billings Police Department is warning adults and parents of teenagers who use the popular app Snapchat to check their settings.

One of the app’s features called Snap Maps has the ability to give a user’s exact location.

Earl Campbell with the Billings Police Department has been investigating internet crimes for nine years.

He explained how easy it is to find a person’s location when they’re using the app.

"So this could be used to find kids, if people are posting images or videos of their kids, or anything along that line. On the map it shows a blue area, but you can zoom in closer and you can actually come up with residences, schools, and places where people live. You can literally track people’s day to day movements on these maps,” Campbell said.

In some cases, Campbell says predators have used a victim’s location to make threats. While some predators can be tracked down, some can never be found.

"We’re kind of bound by the internet being truly the world wide web, so we’ve had many cases where suspects have come back to where they’re not even in the United States, they’re in other countries, which makes it that much more difficult for us to take any kind of legal action,” he said.

Campbell also advises parents to be involved in your child’s social media accounts, know who they’re talking to and make sure they haven’t accepted friend requests from strangers.

"People forget the stranger danger aspect of being online, so they’ll friend people they don’t know," he said.

Intended for people 13 and older, Campbell sees cases where parents help their younger children fake an older age so they can sign up for an account.

It’s possible to use Snapchat without the concern of being tracked. Users have to go to their settings and go into “Ghost Mode.” This still allows them to create videos, but friends won’t know the user’s location.