For thousands of teens, Snapchat is a big part of their lives. It’s the main way they communicate with their friends, and even with their parents in some cases. It’s how they express their creativity and how they stay connected with mates when they aren’t in the same room.
Many parents, myself included, are just a touch wary about Snapchat and other forms of social media, especially the ones we may not use ourselves.
What are they posting?
Who are they talking to?
How secure are their settings?
This is exactly why Snapchat has just introduced a brand new tool that is a game changer for parents.
It’s called the Family Center and it’s a free tool that allows parents to stay informed on their teen’s interactions, but without sacrificing their privacy and revealing any of the substance of those conversations.
The team at Snap met with families, teens, online experts, and wellbeing professionals to put Family Center together and we reckon it’s a great feature. It rolls out today – August 9th – in Australia, UK, USA, New Zealand and Canada with plans to roll out into additional markets later this year. Definitely worth a look if you’re a Snapper.
How Snapchat Family Center works
Essentially, how it works is, through the Family Center, you will be able to have access to certain information on your teen.
The main two things are:
- their friends’ list (so anyone they are friends with)
- recent conversations they’ve had in the past seven days
It’s designed to mimic the way we communicate with our teens in real life. For example, we may know our teen hung out with John today, but we don’t necessarily know exactly what they discussed.
This is the same with Snapchat’s Family Center – we can see who our teen has communicated with, but we don’t have access to their specific chats or snaps – what they have sent or what they’ve been discussing.
Instead of being seen as a ‘spy cam,’ it’s more of a way to get a conversation rolling in real life about what’s happening online. Say, for example, you see that your teen is talking to someone named Sally and you’ve never heard of Sally before. This allows you to bring up the conversation in real life.
Getting started with Family Center
It’s actually ridiculously simple, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t know a lot about Snapchat.
The quick video below explains it perfectly, but, essentially, all you need to do is send your teen an invite to Family Center, have them accept it and you’re ready to go.
Another feature in the Family Center is the ability for parents to easily and confidentially report any accounts that may be concerning directly to the Trust and Safety teams, which work around the clock to help keep Snapchatters safe.
In the coming weeks, Snap will add a new feature that will allow parents to easily view new friends their teens have added.
Why is Family Center so important?
Every parent of a teen (or tween) is concerned about what their kids are doing online. It’s part of the whole ‘parenting package’.
We know the horror stories – the online bullying, the peer pressure, and while we don’t want to think about it, we also don’t want to close our eyes to it completely.
As Dr Louise La Sala, Research Fellow at Orygen, explains,
We know parents and carers are very concerned about what their young people are doing or seeing online and any tool that promotes positive discussions about online content and mental health is a really important step forward.”
This is what Family Center strives to do – to bridge the gap between online and real life. To give us a starting point for communication with our teens. To know what they are doing (to an extent). To know if there is a threat in their online world. Mostly, to remind them that we are always close by, ready for a chat.
Snap’s Family Center isn’t meant to breach the privacy of our teens. In fact, it’s to do the opposite – to keep those lines of communication open and to help us be aware of what’s happening in their worlds, both online and in real life.
A few more things to note about Snapchat
If you are considering letting your teen (13+!) get Snapchat, here are a few things to know about the popular app:
- Snapchat isn’t all about the likes or shares. Actually, it’s not at all about the likes or shares. It’s more of a way for teens to genuinely express themselves and have fun with their friends, in the same way they would if they were hanging out in person—without the pressure to grow a following, gain views, or earn likes.
- By default, teens have to be mutual friends before they can start communicating with each other. A rando can’t just strike a conversation with your teen. That’s not how it works on Snapchat.
- Friends’ lists are private – they don’t allow teens to have public profiles.
- Strangers can’t easily ‘find teens’. For example, teens only show up as a “suggested friend” or in search results in limited instances, like if they have mutual friends in common.
To learn more about Family Center and Snapchat in general, check out Snapchat’s newsroom.
What to read next
- New Snapchat Update – What to Know
- Silence? Why Teens Stop Talking
- Teenagers: What They Say Versus What They Mean