Snap is giving parents a way to keep tabs on teens using Snapchat — without violating their privacy.
The company announced new tools called Family Center on Tuesday that will allow guardians to see who younger users are talking to in the app. Caregivers can also report suspicious accounts without the teen knowing. In addition, the section has guides on how to talk to teens about uncomfortable topics, such as sexual exploitation online.
"Snapchat is a central communications tool for young people, and as our community continues to grow, we know parents and caregivers want additional ways to help keep their teens safe," the company said in a blog post.
The feature automatically turns off when the user turns 18. In the future, Snap said it would add tools to allow teens to let their parents know if they reported an account or piece of content to administrators.
What parents won’t be able to do is see the content of teen conversations. Current laws in the U.S. and other countries prohibit the monitoring of conversations without the explicit knowledge of the individual. Furthermore, a Snap spokesperson pointed out that there is no proof that parents having knowledge of what teens are talking about leads to a safer environment and may in fact break the trust between guardians and their teens.
A poll by Piper Sandler showed that Snap was the most popular social platform among teenagers, with more than one out of three saying it was their favorite app. It was also the second most used app, with 77 percent of the survey takers saying they used it.
Currently, Snapchat does not allow teens to have public profiles or communicate with people outside their friends' list. There are also additional features that make it harder for teen accounts to show up randomly in searches and only if the accounts have mutual friends in common.
"To date, Snapchat's incremental protections for minors using the platform have not been robust enough, given that it consistently ranked one of the most dangerous platforms for children," said Lina Nealon, National Center on Sexual Exploitation director of corporate and strategic initiatives, in a statement. "We're thrilled that Snap has finally launched a much-needed toolset giving parents and caregivers greater oversight and insight into their children’s use of Snapchat — something for which NCOSE and our allies have been advocating for years."