As part of Snap’s child safety efforts, Snapchat is launching a new supervision tool on Tuesday that the company says mimics how parents and teenagers interact in the real world.
Snapchat’s new “Family Center” hub allows parents and guardians to keep tabs on who their teens message with on the app without disclosing what it is they’re saying to each other. Both the guardian and the child must accept the Family Center invite before the oversight tools can take effect. Once the invites are accepted, a guardian can see the entirety of their child’s friends list and a list of accounts they’ve interacted with over the last seven days and report concerning accounts to Snap’s Trust and Safety Team.
“Our goal was to create a set of tools designed to reflect the dynamics of real-world relationships and foster collaboration and trust between parents and teens,” Snap said in its Tuesday blog post. The feature is meant to copy real-life relationships, like when a parent lets a kid’s friends come over but doesn’t monitor everything they say.
Snap plans to roll out new Family Center features over the next few weeks, including tools allowing parents to view the new friends their children have added along with 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 following hearings led to the introduction of a number of bills to tackle children’s safety online. Late last month, a Senate panel approved two bills that would restrict how tech platforms can collect and use data from young users, according to The Washington Post.
One bill, the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act, would ban tech companies from collecting the data of users between 13 and 16 years old without parental consent. A second bill, the Kids Online Safety Act, would create an “eraser” button allowing for young users to easily delete their data from platforms. The measures were approved amid a growing movement of advocates who are calling for lawmakers to raise the age limits in federal law to cover the privacy of children between the ages of 13 and 18 years old, 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. In a statement to The Verge last year, a Snap spokesperson said, “Our overall goal is to help educate and empower young people to make the right choices to enhance their online safety and to help parents be partners with their kids in navigating 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 the ages of 13 to 17 only receive suggestions for accounts that “have a certain number of friends in common with that person.”