Snapchat’s new child safety features let parents see who their kids are talking to

Snapchat has unveiled a plan to make its disappearing photo app safer for kids and teens. The new features, including letting parents see who their kids are talking to in the app, are part of the app’s Family Center, which will roll out in the fall months.

“Today, Snapchat is a central communication tool for young people, and as our community continues to grow, we know that parents and caregivers want additional ways to keep their 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 teens.

The latest feature is an in-app tool called Family Center that allows parents to monitor their children’s accounts.

Image provided by: CBS News

The Home section of the Family Center displays three options: view the child’s friends, see who they messaged in the past week, and report abuse or security issues. This feature prevents parents from seeing the content of their children’s conversations.

“Family Center is designed to reflect the way parents interact with their teens in the real world, where parents usually know who their teens are friends with and when they hang out — but don’t eavesdrop on their private conversations,” the company said. “…Our goal is to empower parents and teens in a way that still protects teens’ 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 will allow teens to 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 interact with them in the app, and they do not have public profiles. Their accounts also only show up in Snapchat’s “Suggested Friend” section or in search results in “limited cases,” Snapchat said, such as if there’s a mutual friend.

The news comes days after Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat, proposed the Combating Harmful Actions with Transparency on Social Act of 2022, or the CHATS Act, to the House. The bill would change the federal crime reporting system to include data from internet platforms related to criminal offences.

In a July post and livestream on Facebook, Gottheimer said the bill is a way to “combat social media preying on our children.”

“The lack of transparency and accountability for these companies has led to serious consequences for our families and our country,” he said. The livestream also featured celebrity therapist Laura Berman and Samuel Chapman, whose 16-year-old son died of an overdose after purchasing fentanyl-laced Xanax from a drug dealer on Snapchat.

“Sammy could just as easily buy drugs on Snapchat as he would order a pizza,” Berman says in a PSA about her son’s death in 2021. “They were delivered to our home in the middle of the night and without his knowledge, they were laced with deadly fentanyl. And that’s what killed him.”

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