Snapchat has unveiled a plan to make the disappearing photo app safer for kids and teens. The new features, which include allowing parents to see who their children are talking to on the app, are part of the app’s Family Hub, which will roll out over the autumn months.
“Today, Snapchat is a central communication tool for young people, and as our community continues to grow, we know parents and caregivers want more ways to help keep teens safe,” Snapchat said in its announcement Tuesday. People as young as 13 can use the app, prompting the company to work with families and experts to create “extra protection” for teenagers.
The newest feature is an in-app tool called Family Center that allows parents to monitor their children’s accounts.
The Family Center home area shows three options: see your child’s friends, see who they’ve messaged in the past week, and report abuse or safety issues. The feature will not allow parents to see the content of any of their children’s conversations.
“Family Center is designed to mirror the way parents communicate with their teens in the real world, where parents typically know who their teens are friends with and when they’re hanging out — but don’t eavesdrop on their private conversations,” the company said. “…Our goal is to help empower parents and teens in a way that still protects a teen’s autonomy and privacy.”
Snapchat also plans to roll out a feature in the coming weeks so parents can see new friends their kids have added to their accounts. This fall, the company will also add parental content controls and a feature that lets teens notify parents when they report a problematic account or content.
The Family Center is a new addition to other features Snapchat has for its teenage users. Currently, teen users must be mutual friends with someone before they can communicate with them on the app, and they do not have public profiles. Their accounts also only appear in the “suggested friend” area of Snapchat or in search results in “limited cases,” Snapchat said, such as if there’s a mutual friend.
The news comes days after Representative Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat from New Jersey, introduced the Combating Harmful Acts with Transparency on Social Security Act of 2022, or CHATS Act, to the House. The bill would change the federal crime reporting system to include data from internet platforms related to criminal acts.
In a July post and live stream on Facebook, Gottheimer said the bill is a way to “fight social media that eats away at our kids.”
“The lack of transparency and accountability for these companies has led to serious consequences for our families and our country,” he said. The live stream also featured a celebrity therapistand Samuel Chapman, whose 16-year-old son died of an overdose after buying Xanax laced with fentanyl from a drug dealer on Snapchat.
“Sammy was able to buy drugs on Snapchat as easily as he would order a pizza,” Berman says in a PSA about his son’s death in 2021. “They were delivered to our home in the middle of the night and laced with lethal fentanyl without his knew it. And that’s what killed him.”