Snapchat is launching Family Center, a tool that allows teens to opt-in so that their parents have insight into how they’re using the popular chat app and who they’re interacting with. It’s opt-in on both ends, which means that the teens must agree.
Snapchat’s Family Center gives parents access to their teen’s friend list and new friends they add, shows parents everyone the teen has communicated with on Snapchat over the past 7 days and provides parents the opportunity to report accounts to Snapchat’s trust and safety team.
Parental involvement and teen privacy
What’s perhaps most important about Family Center is what it doesn’t do. Parents don’t get to see every message a teen sends and receives. Instead, said Snapchat’s director of platform policy and social impact Nona Farahnik Yadegar, “Snapchat is trying to bring parenting behaviors that are analogous to the real world to the digital world.” She added, “if your teen is playing video games in the basements with friends you know who’s down there, or if you drop them off at a friend’s house you know who they’re hanging out with but you’re not in the room listening to the conversation.”
We spoke with Snapchat’s director of platform policy and social impact Nona Farahnik Yadegar for more about the new Family Center.
That not only respects the teen’s privacy but also spares the parent from “too much information,” and — as Yadegar said, really is the way it works in the real world. When I was a teen, my parents knew who my friends were, but they didn’t make me wear a wire so they could record everything I said and heard.
Like the new parental supervision tools that Meta has announced for Instagram and its Oculus virtual reality headsets, Snapchat’s Family Center requires the teen to opt-in. In that sense, it’s not a parental control tool but a way for parents and teens to work together to help protect and empower teens.
Realistically, I don’t expect many 17-year-olds to embrace this technology, but it can be a very useful tool for younger teens, especially during their early use of Snapchat and other social media tools. It would be very reasonable for a parent to require their teen to opt-in to the Family Center as a condition for them being able to use Snapchat. Over time, I suspect some families may decide to stop using it, but it’s a great tool for young teens and may actually be welcomed by some older teens who want their parents to help them more safely use the service.
Family Center is one of several tools and policies designed to keep kids safe on Snapchat. Others include:
- By default, teens have to be mutual friends before they can start communicating with each other
- Friend lists are private, and teens aren’t allowed to have public profiles
- There are protections in place to make it harder for strangers to find teens. For example, teens only show up as a “suggested friend” or in search results in limited instances, like if they have mutual friends in common.
More Snapchat safety resources
For more, check out ConnectSafely’s other Snapchat resources: Parent’s Guide to Snapchat, Quick-Guide to Snapchat Wellness Resources, Quick-Guide to Snapchat Reporting and Quick-Guide to Snapchat Location Sharing.