I’m being asked a lot about Instagram and wrote about it recently. One recommendation I made was to turn off Location Services on your kid’s mobile device, to prevent Instagram from automatically tagging a photo with a geographic location.
Why turn off Location Services?
In a word, safety. Location Services makes is easy for your child to broadcast their location. This could happen unknowingly or on purpose. If they have privacy settings set correctly in Instagram, Facebook, or other apps, this might not be too important as only friends will see their location. However, many kids (and adults) don’t take the time or don’t understand the privacy settings (I’m trying to change this!) and so they may be revealing their location to strangers. Unfortunately there are predators out there. And you don’t want to make it any easier for them to locate your children.
How to turn off Location Services on iPod touch, iPad or iPhone
You can turn off Location Services completely, or on an app-by-app basis.
** Update: Location Services settings are now located under the new Privacy option in iOS 6. Instructions are updated here to show the new settings. **
1. Go to Settings – Privacy – Location Services.
2. Use the top slider to turn location services on or off for all apps. If you choose to have Location Services on, as shown here, you can still turn them off for each app. Notice that I have Camera set to “Off”. This is to prevent geographical tagging of the photos my daughter takes with the iPod camera.
*Note that the options in this screenshot are greyed-out. This is because I have set restrictions on the iPod to prevent changes to these settings. More on that below.
When to keep Location Services on
Some apps require a location to function and be useful. For example, the Google map app is going to need your location to give you accurate driving directions. The Weather app can give you the forecast for your current location.
How to decide? I recommend turning most of them off to start. Ask yourself, why does this app need a geographical location? If you can’t think of a reason, turn it off. If you find an app becomes useless without location information, then turn it back on.
How can I prevent my child from changing the Location Services settings?
Let’s say you go through the steps above to prevent Instagram or other apps from using Location information. You can then set a restriction to prevent changes to those settings.
1. Go to Settings – General – Restrictions.
2. If you have already set up restrictions, you’ll be prompted for the passcode. If not, choose Enable Restrictions and enter a passcode. Be sure to use a 4-digit passcode that you will remember and your kids will not guess.
3. Scroll down to Privacy and click on Location Services.
4. Make any changes to Location settings for the apps listed. Then, put a check mark next to Don’t Allow Changes.
Now these settings are saved and locked.
I recommend taking a look at your child’s iPod or iPad from time to time to review the Location settings. And as always talk with your kids about why you are doing this! They might not even realize the capabilities of the device and why it is important to keep this private.
More on Location Services and geotagging:
Use location services more safely from Microsoft Safety & Security Center
GPS Tracking: Should Your Teens Use Location Services? from Common Sense Media
Leave a comment and let me know what you think!
[This article was originally published July 2012, and updated January 2013 to reflect changes in iOS 6.]