Snapchat, many teens’ favorite endangered photo and chat app, has announced that a new feature called Family Center will be released globally in the coming weeks, giving parents the ability to see with who their children discuss.
“Family Center is designed to mirror the way parents interact 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 listen to their private conversations,” the company said. society. said in a Press release.
According to press materials, the new feature requires the child and parent to consent to the monitoring. Once a parent has been given permission to monitor their teen’s account, they will be able to see a list of their teen’s friends and report anything they find suspicious. As designed, the tool would not notify a parent of other Snapchat accounts a child might have.
The announcement of the new feature comes amid mounting pressure from activists and lawmakers.
For years, parents of teenagers who died after buying fentanyl-containing drugs from people on Snapchat have called on the company to work to prevent such tragedies from happening again.
Many have called on the company to allow parental monitoring apps to access Snapchat chats so that parents can be alerted to certain types of chats and content deemed dangerous.
Snapchat and several other apps have pushed back on that idea, citing privacy concerns.
Sam Chapman, father Sammy Chapman – a teenager who died after taking fentanyl drugs found on Snapchat – worked with the Organization for Social Media Safety to help develop “Sammy’s Law”, a project of law that would force social media companies like Snapchat to work with surveillance apps.
Last week, NBC News reported that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., was working to find a co-sponsor to help introduce Chapman’s bill to the House in the coming weeks.
Wasserman Schultz called Snapchat’s new feature “a step forward,” but noted that she believes children are still at risk.
“Parents should be able to know more than the name their child communicates with,” she wrote in an email. “Snapchat and other platforms are no substitute for parents’ need to keep their children safe, which is why we urgently need to enact Sammy’s Law – to comprehensively protect children not just on Snapchat, but on all social media platforms.”
In an email, Chapman slammed Snapchat’s announcement, calling it a “PR barb for what’s really going on, which is children are dying.” Chapman noted that the new tool would not prevent a teen from switching accounts or platforms to avoid surveillance.
A Snapchat representative noted that it was against its terms of service to have multiple accounts and that if a person had multiple accounts, they would have to completely log out of the app to switch between them.
Marc Berkman, CEO of the Organization for Social Media Safety, questioned the usefulness of the tool.
“Parents have always had the ability to revisit their children’s Snapchat friends directly through their children’s accounts; however, this security tactic can often be very limited in its effectiveness,” he said in an email. mail. “A parent who regularly sees new friends added to Snapchat will have to trust the child to know who is added or go through heroic verification processes. We’re pretty confident that most teens won’t tell their parents the truth about the drug dealer they just added to their account.”
Snapchat said in a blog post that it developed Family Center to “empower parents and teens in a way that always protects a teen’s autonomy and privacy.”