For years, parents have campaigned to get social media sites to help them keep their kids safe online. In order to stave off government action, some of these platforms have moved to offer safety features they say will help protect kids.
Snapchat’s new “Family Center” tool is one such innovation, announced this summer. After receiving their child’s permission, it allows parents to view a list of their Snapchat friends and see their communications over the previous seven days.
Not ImpressedYet many of the organizations working to protect kids online greeted the announcement with skepticism.
Marc Berkman, CEO of the non-profit Organization for Social Media Safety (OFSMS), questioned the tool’s effectiveness.
“A parent seeing new friends added to Snapchat regularly will have to trust the child as to who is being added or undertake some heroic verification processes,” he told NBC News.
“We are fairly confident that most teens are not going to be truthful with their parents about the drug dealer they just added to their account.”
Better Than NothingOn the other hand, the non-profit National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) welcomed the new feature. In a review, it hailed the tool as a way to “help caregivers gain insight into who their children are interacting with on the popular app.”
But even NCOSE noted its limitations:
Parents are still unable to see the content of the messages.
Parents are still unable to block or remove their children’s “friends.”
Although new resources offer ways to have open conversations about online safety, there is no information related to sexual abuse or exploitation, both of which are significant risks on the platform.
Making It WorkThis is all by design, according to Snapchat.
“Family Center is designed to reflect how 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,” the company said in a press release.
OFSMS recommends parents use Family Center along with their “Buckling the Social Media Seatbelt System”:
Discuss with your child why you want to use Family Center.
Set social media safety rules.
Use tools to limit the time your child is on the platform.
The organization offers more details on this system in their free online course for parents, found here. (https://courses.ofsms.org/courses/the-buckling-the-social-media-seatbelt-supercourse)