Snap Inc, owner of the popular messaging app Snapchat, rolled out its first parental control tools on Tuesday, which will allow parents to see who their teens are talking to, but not the substance of their conversations.
The new feature called Family Center is launching at a time when social media companies have been criticised over a lack protection for kids. In October, Snap and its tech peers TikTok and YouTube testified before US lawmakers accusing the companies of exposing young users to bullying or steering them toward harmful content.
Instagram also testified in a Senate hearing in December over children’s online safety, after a Facebook whistleblower leaked internal documents that she said showed the app harmed some teens’ mental health and body image.
Parents can invite their teens to join Family Center on Snapchat, and once the teens consent, parents will be able to view their kids’ friends list and who they have messaged on the app in the past seven days. They can also confidentially report any concerning accounts.
However, parents will not be able to see private content or messages sent to and from their teens, said Jeremy Voss, Snap's head of messaging products, in an interview.
“It strikes the right approach for enhancing safety and well-being, while still protecting autonomy and privacy,” he said.
Snap said it plans to launch additional features in the coming months, including notifications to parents when their teen reports abuse from a user.
Prior to Family Center, Snap already had some teen protection policies in place. By default, profiles for Snapchat users under 18 are private, and they only show up as a suggested friend in search results when they have friends in common with another user. Users must be at least 13 years old to sign up.
Snap’s new tools follow a similar move by Instagram, which launched its Family Center in March, allowing parents to view what accounts their teens follow and how much time they spend on the app.