I was pleasantly surprised to see that my last blog post which focussed on ‘how to manage your children’s access to your smartphone’ sparked a lot of conversations around geotagging; there have been over 100 comments and still going strong! So, I thought it would be particularly relevant to look at this issue more closely.
Geotagging, as I mentioned in the last blog post, is a feature which captures location and time information to any digital content you create, such as when you take a picture of the children or make a video of the family holiday. Geotagging is an option on most modern smartphones and tablets as well as the more ‘traditional’ digital and video cameras that is sometimes set to ‘on’ by default.
As with many new technologies, some of the features can be concerning, but geotagging doesn’t need to be feared. As parents, the more we can educate ourselves on developments in technology, the better armed we are to look after our children and ourselves (let’s not forget we use these devices as much as the little ones!).
So, here is what you need to know about Geotagging:
- Automatically pins your location to images and videos – Think of geotagging as a virtual scrapbook which allows you to automatically organise all those happy snaps you took at the beach on your last family trip. While I love the idea behind scrapbooking, I rarely get the time to do it (and I’m sure many parents are in the same boat).
- Opens the door to more sophisticated ways of using technology – Geotagging enables a whole host of amazing apps, from Foursquare to Google Maps, to become much more useful and entertaining and now geotagging is driving new ways of merging the virtual world with the real world. Take mobile games for example. The other day, a friend showed me a new game called Ingress which lets people go on a virtual treasure hunt using a smartphone or tablet. To win, people need to hunt down targets, such as the Opera House or Federation Square before their opponents (which could be the person right next to you). The app Wikitude is another great example of how geotagging is creating an ‘augmented reality’ to display a whole bunch of interesting, virtual information about the real world around you. Sure, these apps are very futuristic and there are only several out there at the moment, but it gives you a taste of what’s to come!
Naturally, giving out live information of your whereabouts is going to raise some concerns about the privacy of your families. While protecting the privacy of our children used to be as easy as getting the children inside the house before dark, it’s isn’t as easy with today’s technology keeping everyone connected 24/7. Plus, it’s important to remember that geotagging doesn’t just refer to images and videos. Location data can be included in many forms of digital media we use every day, such as tweets and Facebook posts.
How to have fun safely
As with any new technology feature, getting a handle on how to best use the feature is key. Remember, there is no need to panic and fear technology. By properly understanding how geotagging works, you can enjoy the technology while maintaining your family’s privacy.
So what steps can we take safely use geotagging?
- When it comes to children, it’s important to keep a close eye on the apps and devices they are using. As each mobile app will tend to ask permission to use certain features of the phone, parents need to keep a particularly close watch on what “location settings” are included.
- When in doubt, switch geotagging off. The rules of “stranger danger” still apply online, so if you don’t want people to know where you or your children are, it’s probably best to turn off geotagging. Different devices will have different ways to do this, but here are some tips for disabling the geotagging for the most popular smartphones. Also, if you’re concerned your children might accidentally download apps with geotagging services, you can switch your GPS off completely.
- Finally, don’t forget that other devices like digital and video cameras have geotagging as well, it’s not just your smartphone or tablet. So, it might be worth pulling the manual out of the cupboard and having a look how to switch these off too.