It's 2012 and your kids have an iPhone - Do you know where they are? I do.
The strangest thing just happened. I'm sitting here in a hotel in New Zealand and my phone pops up an alert from a push-to-talk voice chat application I recently installed called Voxer. It's a voicemail from a tween (a child perhaps not quite 13 - in-between) teasing me about my name. "Scott Hanselman - Who would name their kid Scott HanselAndGretal man. *giggle*" Harmless stuff, of course, but weird and random. No idea who this is.
The name wasn't familiar but there was a little icon next to the voicemail in the Voxer app. Perhaps you've seen it before. It was a little red pin.
I clicked, and the young person's exact location popped up. They were sitting in a public library, likely after school. Because the application is an iPhone app and tied into their identity, the app shows their full name, not an alias. Literally a light 20 seconds (not minutes, mind you) of Googling and I find their Google Plus profile and Twitter. Google Plus promotes even more "information leakage" with it's "Places Lived" feature. This showed the last three cities the young person lived in. One of them was Portland. Since I live in Portland that seemed too coincidental. I searched for people I know on Facebook with the same last name who lived in Portland. Turns out I'm Facebook-friends with this young person's dad, although both have long since moved out of town. I messaged him and he was appreciative, relieved it was me and not a stranger, and is dealing with his child.
What's the moral here friends? Let me break it down for you:
More apps leak your exact location than you realize.
- These apps often ask you once, and then broadcast your location multiple times a day. I'm looking at you Facebook, Twitter, GroupMe, Voxer and Foursquare. I doubt anyone, including this young person, would ever guess that this little voice chat program would give up his address. If adults don't noticed this stuff, how is a teenager (or younger) supposed to?
- Folks at Voxer - You need to make location services OFF by default.
Your kids have no idea. Yet.
They may be social this and savvy that, but honestly, they don't realize how much info they are leaking. Take a moment today and talk to them about it.
You've had the Drugs Talk, the Sex Talk, now have the Location Services Talk.
You can turn off Location Services on a per apps basis, and you can also turn on Restrictions on your phone so that only some apps (Find my Friends, for example) can access the GPS while others (Twitter, Voxer, etc) can't.
Have a Location Services policy for your family
- As stupid as teens often are, they are smart when armed with information. Explain the situation, show them the control they have and apply your family policy.
Hope this helps your kids. Spread the word.