Twitter is Testing a Dangerous “Nearby” Feature

If you’re the parent of a teen or tween who uses Twitter, you should know a little more about the rumored “Nearby” feature that they have reportedly been testing. That they have been testing it has been reported as fact, but we haven’t seen it yet.

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 9.36.47 AMFirst, a question: Do you know whether your tweeting teen has “Location” turned on or off for her tweets? Don’t feel bad if your answer is no. I’m pretty sure not many parents know the answer to that.

According to the Wall Street Journal this week:

“The short-messaging service appears to be testing a new timeline for its mobile app, called “Nearby.” It shows recent nearby tweets, whether you follow the tweeter or not.

The “Nearby” timeline has appeared occasionally in recent days on the phones of users who allow Twitter to see and use their location.”

Unfortunately, if the update gets pushed out to all users, it will make Twitter an extremely useful tool for predators unless your children’s Twitter accounts disable the “Location” feature. Currently (as always, subject to change), the location function is set to “off” at signup.

If your daughter has turned location on for her account, consider the following situation: A predator sits in Starbucks with his Twitter open to the Nearby tab. Your daughter walks in and orders, then tweets, “OMG, I just ordered a #Macchiato. Sooooo good.” The tweet pops up on the predator’s Twitter Nearby screen, and he sees that she is the only one in the store with her phone in her hand. If her Twitter handle contains all or part of her real name, he now Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 9.36.26 AMknows that too. You get the picture.

To see whether location is enabled for your teen currently, login into her Twitter account on a desktop or laptop (it’s easier to do it there than on her phone), click the gear icon at the top right, click on Security and Privacy and scroll down to the Privacy settings. In the box pictured at right, make sure that the “Tweet location” box is unchecked.

The good news is that predators can no longer see her location. The bad news is that she can turn it back on any time she wants to.

Good Twitter parenting starts with deciding when to allow your child to join Twitter. The site’s stated age limit is 13, but they don’t enforce the limit so there is no help there. We advise that only the most mature early teens be allowed to use Twitter, based on stalker risk and the amount of not-safe-for-kids content on the network. It’s mostly safe for older teens, and is a very good learning and news tool, but risks and adult content do exist. Be careful out there.


Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.

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