Snapchat launched its first parental control center on Tuesday, over ten months after a company executive told Congress that it was working on measures to assist parents keep their children safe.
The new Family Center tool promises to provide parents with additional insight about who their children are interacting with on the messaging app – without revealing the content of those chats. Parents must set up their own Snapchat accounts, and kids must opt-in and allow access to their parents to see their contacts.
“Family Center is meant to mimic how parents connect with their teens in the real world, where parents generally know who their teens’ friends are and when they are hanging out — but don’t eavesdrop on their private chats,” the company wrote in a blog post.
Following concerns expressed last year by a Facebook whistleblower about the company’s influence on younger users, officials from Snapchat’s parent company, YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram were interrogated by Congress about the precautions they take to protect minors.
Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Commerce Committee’s consumer protection subcommittee expressed concern that social media platforms were being used to harm children and promote destructive behaviors such as school vandalism, lethal viral challenges like bullying, eating disorders, and manipulative influencer marketing.
Snapchat’s VP of global public policy, Jennifer Stout, reported to Congress that “there is more work to be done” and that the firm was developing additional parental tools to safeguard young users.
In recent months, some apps have added additional features to improve parental controls and safety for younger users. Instagram, for example, has released features that allow parents to see whose profiles their children follow or are followed by, as well as how much time they spend on the applications.
While this is Snapchat’s first step into parental restrictions, it already has a few safety precautions for young users, such as requiring teens to be mutual friends before they can communicate and barring them from having public accounts.
Snapchat aims to expand Family Center’s services in the coming months. Parents will be able to see which new friends their kids have added, they will be able to privately report concerning accounts that may be communicating with their child. Younger users will be able to alert their parents when they report an account or piece of content. The business stated that it engaged with online safety experts when designing the features.