Snapchat: Parents can see children conversing with in-app safety features

Snapchat is establishing a new supervision tool on Tuesday that the company declares mimics how parents and teenagers interact in the real world as part of Snap’s child safety endeavors,

Snapchat’s new “Family Center” hub permits parents and guardians to keep tabs on who their teens message on the app without revealing what they’re saying to each other.

The guardian and the kid must take the Family Center invites before the administration tools can take impact. Once the invites are received, a guardian can visit the totality of their child’s friends list and an inventory of accounts they’ve interacted with over the previous seven days and report concerning statements to Snap’s Trust and Safety Team.

“We planned to construct a set of tools designed to recall the dynamics of real-world relationships and foster complicity and trust between parents and teens,” Snap said in a blog post. The segment is meant to copy real-life relationships, like when a parent lets a kid’s buddies come over but doesn’t scrutinize everything they say.

Snap intends to roll out new Family Center features over the subsequent few weeks, including tools permitting parents to consider the new friends their children have added and additional content controls.

Snap’s new parental controls come as lawmakers continue their work to address children’s online safety. After Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked internal documents disclosing how Meta’s platforms can harm young users, some of the largest tech platforms were called in to testify before Congress. Among YouTube and TikTok was a representative from Snap before a Senate committee last October.

At last year’s hearing, Jennifer Stout, Snap’s vice president of global public policy, said, “Snapchat was built as an antidote to social media” — distinguishing how Snap is distancing itself from Facebook and other social media platforms.

Haugen’s disclosures and the subsequent hearings led to the introduction of several bills to tackle children’s safety online. Late last month, a Senate panel approved two bills restricting how tech platforms can collect and use data from young users.

One bill, the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act, would ban tech companies from collecting users’ data between 13 and 16 years old without parental consent. A second bill, the Kids Online Safety Act, would create an “eraser” button allowing young users to quickly delete their data from platforms. The measures were approved amid a growing movement of advocates calling for lawmakers. It is to raise the age limits in federal law to cover the privacy of children between the ages of 13 and 18, rather than simply children under the age of 13.

Following Snap’s October congressional hearing, the company announced that it was working on the Family Center tool it announced on Tuesday. A Snap spokesperson said, “Our overall objective is to educate and empower young people to earn the right choices to improve their online safety and to help parents support their kids in steering the digital world.”

In January, Snap launched a feature limiting the number of friend suggestions teenagers see on its app via its Quick Add menu. According to the company, kids between 13 to 17 only receive suggestions for accounts that “have a specific number of buddies in common with that individual.”

Snapchat, a product of Snap Inc., is a free image messaging application headquartered in Venice, California. Photos sent through the app are only available for a specific time (decided by the sender) before disappearing. An instant messaging interface also allows users to send messages, photos, and money.

Users can decorate their photos with filters, stickers, and augmented reality objects. Snapchat’s Stories platform enables users to share a photo with all of their contacts for twenty-four hours before it disappears. Snapchat’s Discover feature showcases short-form vertical videos from brands such as The Daily Mail, Mashable, and Cosmopolitan.

Snapchat was launched as Picaboo, an app exclusively for iOS, in July 2011 by Evan Spiegel, Reggie Brown, and Bobby Murphy while they were students at Stanford University. It was rebranded as Snapchat in November of that year. In 2012, video snaps were introduced to the platform, and a version of the app was released for Android.

In 2014, Snapchat refused offers of acquisition, including requests from Facebook. In the same year, Snapchat introduced video chat and acquired AddLive and Vergence Labs. In the case of Vergence Labs, the acquisition was for $15 million in cash and stocks. Vergence Labs was the developer of Epiphany Eyewear and a mobile application, Scan. Snapchat also agreed with the FTC following misinterpretations on the storage of user data and the accessibility of “expired” messages.

On November 23, 2020, Snapchat introduced Spotlight, a feature that allows users to post public short videos—the company’s alternative to TikTok and Instagram Reels. The service did not include advertisements at launch but is expected to introduce them in the future. In addition, the Spotlight will not have public comments, unlike competing services.

Snapchat hosts several functions for users and brands to share content, including disappearing photos, direct messaging chat, stories that last twenty-four hours, video and audio chat, and more.