Snapchat Finally Releases Parental Controls Called Family Center
We’ve waited a long time for this!
Since our start in 2015, Protect Young Eyes has not always been kind to Snapchat. From 5 Days of Discover (2016), to Cosmo After Dark (2018), to our Senate Judiciary Committee testimony (2019), we’ve made it clear that more needed to be done to keep millions of young users safer inside of their app.
But now we’re pleased to announce that, under new leadership in Snap’s Platform Safety Team, Snapchat has made long-awaited changes with the release of Family Center. This new, limited set of controls will give parents more insight into how their teens use the app, first rolling out in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the UK, followed by additional international markets later this month and in the weeks to follow.
How was PYE Involved in the Release of Family Center?
PYE founder, Chris McKenna, connected with Snapchat in late 2021, looking for opportunities to speak into stronger protections for teens.
When Snap’s Global Head of Platform Safety, Jacqueline Beauchere, invited him into conversations about Family Center, he was glad to share what protections families desire when their children use Snapchat.
“We very much appreciate Chris’s feedback and input on behalf of families and teens as we’ve developed Family Center — and we look forward to continuing the dialogue as updates and additional features follow.”
— Jacqueline Beauchere, Global Head of Platform Safety, Snap Inc
PYE provided feedback throughout the process and has been featured in the following articles:
- ABC: Snapchat Safety Features for Parents Announced
- NBC: Snapchat Unveils Parent Tools with New Family Center
How Does Family Center Work?
According to Snapchat’s blog post:
Family Center is designed to reflect the way that parents engage with their teens in the real world, where parents usually know who their teens are friends with and when they are hanging out – but don’t eavesdrop on their private conversations.
#1 – Parents will have to download Snapchat. Some will fight this move, but if a child is using it, we believe their parent(s) should too.
#2 – Parents can search for Family Center in the Stories tab, located second from the right in the Action Bar.
#3 – Parents will send their teen a Family Center invitation. Yes, teens will need to accept the invitation. What happens if they don’t? This is where the relationship matters! This is why we tell parents to make sure every minor in their home knows that parents are involved – co-ownership – from the moment they touch an internet-connected device. If the Family Center invitation is the very first time you’ve tried to be involved in how your son or daughter uses Snapchat, then of course they will resist.
Guess what? The 15-year-old version of you would have resisted that kind of parent involvement, too. Lead with empathy. Pick your spot. Listen.
What are the Specific Features in Family Center?
- Parents will be able to see all of their teen’s friends. It’s important to review the friends list regularly, with an attitude of curiosity (an essential part of our Digital Trust Framework). NOTE: Snap may be releasing a feature in Family Center that would alert parents when a new friend is added. We hope this happens.
- Parents will be able to see who they have messaged and how recently, but not the contents of that message. We have thoughts about this in the “What Else is Coming?” section below.
- Parents can report abuse and accounts that could be violating safety rules, without telling their teens.
**Critical! Don’t forget the importance of your child’s birthday in their account. Snapchat can only apply these new controls if it knows the correct birthday of your child.
Can Teens Remove Themselves from Family Center?
Both parents and teens can leave Family Center at any time by navigating to the menu and selecting “Leave Family Center.” Leaving will break the link between parent and teen profiles, notifying the other party with a status message update and push notification. When teens turn 18, they will automatically age out of Family Center. This image shows the interaction:
What else is Coming?
We’ve been told that in the coming months, Snapchat will add new content controls for parents and the ability for teens to notify their parents when they report an account or a piece of content to their parents. Fewer and fewer teens seem to be using the Discover section of Snapchat, but for parents of younger users, this will give parents more granular control over the Snapchat experience.
While working with Snapchat, we’ve asked that they look to Apple’s recent on-device nudity detection in iMessage as a valuable next step for protecting teens from sextortion, sexting, and the receipt of unwanted sexualized content. The teen brain is all go and no slow. The limbic system and that emotional rush that comes from the nude photo experience is far more powerful than the “thinking” part of a teen brain that might be whispering, “no!”
Minimally, we would like to see these “on-device” AI controls enforced for Snapchat’s youngest users, while they’re learning and their brains are more vulnerable.
We would also like to see a feature that would give parents more control over Snap Map, making it so that parents can disable the feature, or minimally lock in Ghost Mode.
We simply want Snap to use their endless engineering genius to meet teen brains where they are – impulsive, emotional, and risk-taking – and help them make better choices. Right now, it’s just too easy for amazing teens to make one choice in Snapchat that can radically change the trajectory of their life.
#delayistheway Is Still the Way!
Please wait as long as possible to give your child a smartphone and social media. We definitely want to teach our children how to use technology, with our guidance, modeling, and protection. But please, please keep the junior high years clear of social media.
Here are a few solutions to help:
- Gabb Wireless has amazing, UNsmart phones for kids. Is your child prepared for the new school year? Maybe Gabb can help!
- Bark Technologies can monitor over 30 social media platforms. Are you looking to be involved, but not intrusive? Maybe Bark can help!
*There might be affiliate links throughout this post because we’ve tested many and trust a small list of parental control solutions. Our work saves you time! If you decide that you agree with us, then we may earn a small commission, which does nothing to your price. Enjoy!
Chris McKenna, Founder: A man with never ending energy when it comes to fighting for the safety and protection of children. Chris practices his internet safety tips on his four amazing children and is regularly featured on news, radio, and podcasts for his research. His 2019 US Senate Judiciary Committee testimony was the catalyst for draft legislation and on-going discussion that could radically change online child protection laws and earned PYE the NCOSE Dignity Defense Alert Award in 2020. The PYE team has performed over 1,300 presentations at schools, churches, and nonprofits and was featured in the Childhood 2.0 movie. When not leading PYE, Chris is the Digital Marketing Manager for Covenant Eyes. Other loves include running, spreadsheets, nature, and candy.