Parenting in the digital age isn’t for the faint of heart.
With devastating stories like Dr.Laura Berman’s son overdosing on drugs he bought on Snapchat and a seemingly neverending news cycle of kids being targeted by online predators, it’s enough to make any parent want to ditch the devices and move to the bush.
In the past, both Instagram and TikTok have introduced parental controls that claim to help parents and guardians monitor who and what their teens are up to.
And now, Snapchat is finally following suit.
Snapchat just rolled out a new in-app “Family Center” tool that lets parents keep tabs on who their teens are friends with & chatting with, as long as their teen approves, that is.
According to a Snapchat blog post:
“Family Center is designed to reflect the way that parents engage with their teens in the real world, where parents usually know who their teens are friends with and when they are hanging out — but don’t eavesdrop on their private conversations.”
Sorry parents, you can forget about doing any cloak and dagger spying; messages and snap content CANNOT be seen.
Snapchat says that it worked with both parents AND teens to develop the feature so it would “empower parents and teens in a way that still protects a teenager’s autonomy and privacy.”
In order to use the new feature, parents will have to have their own Snapchat account. The app works by using an opt-in invite process that links the parent’s account to their teen’s account.
To access the tool you can search for it in the search bar or alternatively,
- Go into your profile settings
- Scroll down to Privacy Controls
- Go into Family Center and send your teenager an invitation (you have to be friends with your teen to do so.)
- Once your invite is accepted, parents will be able to see their teens’ complete friend list, who they’ve chatted with in the past seven days, and to report accounts of concern to Snapchat.
Parents, guardians, or trusted relatives aged 25+ can invite their family members to join Family Center, and only teens between the ages of 13 – 18 can join. (According to their terms of service, Snapchat does not allow users under the age of 13).
In addition to these three features, Snapchat will add more in the fall.
“This fall, we plan on adding additional features to Family Center, including new content controls for parents and the ability for teens to notify their parents when they report an account or a piece of content to us.
While we closely moderate and curate both our content and entertainment platforms, and don’t allow unvetted content to reach a large audience on Snapchat, we know each family has different views on what content is appropriate for their teens and want to give them the option to make those personal decisions.”
Snapchat is an image and video messaging app that allows users to capture and send ‘Snaps’ that self-destruct after a few seconds of viewing.
It also has a “Stories” function similar to Facebook and Instagram. Additionally, it also has a messaging feature that allows Snapchatters to chat with each other and a map feature that shares a user’s location with other users.
Snapchat is hugely popular with tweens and teens, snagging second place after TikTok as their favorite social media app.
And while it may be beloved by teens, it’s not so much by parents.
Additionally, it has been under fire by U.S. Congress for harming kids’ mental health.
So is “Family Center” enough to keep our kids safe? Critics don’t seem to think so.
They say it doesn’t go far enough to prevent bullying, abuse, or exploitation. It also doesn’t stop kids from lying about their age when they sign up for the app.
Additionally, Snapchat doesn’t give parents the ability to block content – either what their kids are sending/receiving or what they see in Discover. Parents also cannot control the map feature.
As well, Snapchat fails to issue a warning to parents when sexually explicit images or videos are shared.
However, some parental control is better than none. And while this is a step in the right direction, it’s clear it still has a long way to go.