Snap Inc, which owns popular messaging app Snapchat, unveiled its first parental control tools on Tuesday, which will allow parents to see who their teens are talking to, but not the content of their conversations.
The new feature, called Family Center, comes at a time when social media companies have come under fire for failing to protect children.
In October, Snap and its rivals TikTok and YouTube testified before US lawmakers accusing the companies of exposing young users to harassment or directing them toward harmful content.
Instagram also testified at a December Senate hearing on children’s online safety, after a whistleblower leaked internal documents that she said showed the app was harming the mental health and body image of some teens.
Parents can invite their kids to join the Family Center on Snapchat, and once teens give their consent, parents will be able to see their kids’ friends list and who they’ve messaged on the app in the last seven days. They will also be able to confidentially report any suspicious account.
However, parents won’t be able to see private content or messages sent to and by their teens, Jeremy Voss, Snap’s head of messaging products, said in an interview.
“It’s the right approach to improve safety and well-being, while still protecting autonomy and privacy,” he said.
Snap said it plans to roll out more features in the coming months, including notifications to parents when their teen reports user abuse.
Before Family Center, Snap already had some teen protection policies in place. By default, the profiles of Snapchat users under the age of 18 are private, and they only appear as suggested friends in search results when they have mutual friends with another user. Users must be at least 13 years old to register.
Snap’s new tools follow a similar move by Instagram, which launched its Family Center in March, allowing parents to see which accounts their teens follow and how much time they spend on the app.
Rachel Maga is a technology journalist currently working at Globe Live Media agency. She has been in the Technology Journalism field for over 5 years now. Her life’s biggest milestone is the inside tour of Tesla Industries, which was gifted to her by the legend Elon Musk himself.