In a blog post that went live yesterday, Snapchat revealed their latest in-app innovation, a safety feature called Family Center that will help parents and carers support their teens while they connect with others online.
Family Center will allow parents to view their children’s Snapchat accounts on a surface level, letting them see their child’s friends list and who they have been in communication with, without showing any details of the conversations themselves.
Parents will also be able to report any accounts they feel are concerning in a discreet manner, and there are future plans to allow teens to notify their parents when they find distressing or inappropriate content.
Family Center is designed to mimic the relationship a parent has with their child in the real world, where they will usually be aware of who their teen is friends with and can supervise without eavesdropping on their private conversations. The tool was created in this was under the guidance of numerous experts in online safety, as well as a number of families containing both parents and teens.
Snapchat’s APAC head of policy, Henry Turnbull, said the goal of Snapchat’s was to provide parents with the tools they need to support their teens. “That core feature – of seeing friends lists but not detailed conversations – combined with a new set of educational resources, will go a long way toward enabling parents to better support their teens’ safety and wellbeing online, while still protecting teens’ needs for autonomy, trust and privacy. We hope Family Centre will empower parents, and prompt constructive conversations within families about online safety.”
The new safety feature comes after Snap organised a study earlier this year that looked into online wellbeing. The study concluded in April this year with 9,000 respondents from Australia, France, Germany, India, the UK and the US.
The study found that parents who had regular conversations with their teens about online activities were more in tune with the likelihood of risk faced. 68 per cent of teens surveyed admitted to having been exposed to one or more online risks, with parents who regularly checked in with their teams estimating the chances at 70 per cent.
Additionally, teens who were regularly talking to their parents about online activities were more likely to tell their parents if they encountered a risk online, with 62 per cent of these teens telling their parents after such an incident occured.
Prof. Amanda Third, professional research fellow at Western Sydney University and co-director, Young and Resilient Research Centre, said: “Tools that allow parents visibility of their teen’s online interactions, while still maintaining teen privacy, can be seen as a positive step forward in helping young people stay safe online.
“Talking to teens about cyber safety can be challenging for parents and carers, and features that can promote conversations within families on this important topic, are welcome. It’s encouraging to see platforms like Snapchat further prioritising teen safety and privacy.”
Turnbull added: “We first began working on Family Centre last winter, and given the importance of this product, wanted to take the time to consult parents, Snapchatters and safety experts to ensure that what we were building would address their needs. Their insights were critical to the development of these tools, and we will keep working with safety experts, parents and other stakeholders to keep making these tools more effective over time.”
In coming months, a number of updates are scheduled to be rolled out into the Family Centre tool, including content controls for parents and an option for teens to report content to their parents directly. As Family Centre evolves, Snapchat will continue to communicate with families to evaluate what is needed to maximise user safety.
Turnbull concluded: “We are planning to roll out these tools early this spring, along with the ability for teens to notify their parents when they report an account or content to us. As we roll out these tools and continue to improve them, we will continue to seek feedback from our community, families, policymakers, safety and mental health advocates, academics and other experts and are grateful for their input.”