Snap Inc, the owner of popular messaging app Snapchat, launched its first parental control tool on Tuesday, allowing parents to see who their teens are talking to but not what they are saying.
The launch of the new feature called “Family Hub” comes as the social media company has been criticised for its lack of protection for children. In October, Snap and its tech peers TikTok and YouTube testified before US lawmakers, accusing the companies of subjecting young users to bullying or directing them to harmful content.
Instagram also testified on children’s online safety at a Senate hearing in December after a Facebook whistleblower leaked internal documents; she said the app harmed some teens’ mental health and body image.
Parents can invite their teens to the Family Hub on Snapchat, and once the teen agrees, parents will be able to view their child’s friends list and who they’ve messaged on the app in the past seven days. They can also confidentially report any related accounts.
However, Snap’s head of messaging products, Jeremy Voss, said in an interview that parents would not be able to see private content or messages sent between their teens.
He said it took the right approach to improve safety and well-being while protecting autonomy and privacy. Snap said it plans to roll out more features in the coming months, including notifying parents when teens report user abuse.
Before Family Centre, Snap already had some youth protection policies in place. Snapchat users under 18 have private profiles by default and only show up as suggested friends in search results if they have mutual friends with other users. Users must be at least 13 years old to sign up.
Snap’s new tool follows a similar move by Instagram, which launched Family Hub in March, allowing parents to see which accounts their teens follow and how much time they spend on the app.