“Welcome to the Family Center” is the message greeting shown in the new feature from Snapchat®. The “Family Center” helps parents restrict teens from viewing inappropriate content by enabling a “Restrict Sensitive Content” setting. Once enabled, the “Family Center” claims it will filter out “sensitive or suggestive” items from Snapchat Stories or Spotlight feed1 The “Family Center” also allows parents to view their teen’s friends, see whom they have messaged, and confidentially report accounts.
While these new content filtering capabilities are a step in the right direction, parents should know a few things. The “Family Center” is not perfect. Snapchat clarifies; content is ONLY filtered out of Stories and Spotlight, leaving chats/snaps and searches, filter-free. In addition, the “sensitive and suggestive” content is classified by Snapchat’s own Community Guidelines, and Content Guidelines. The Community Guidelines state, “We reserve the right to decide, at our sole discretion, what content or behaviour violates the spirit of our rules.” This means Snapchat decides what is harmful to your teen, not any sort of regulatory body.
Finally, Cybertip!ca® analysts at the Canadian Centre for Child Protection took a deeper look at the new feature and discovered:
- The teen must accept the parent’s request for them to join the “Family Center.”
- While parents can see whom their teens are chatting with, they can’t see the messages.
- A teen could start a new Snapchat account not linked to the “Family Center.”
Snapchat plans to add additional controls for the feature, so we may see some of these concerns remedied.
As with all social media, until there are regulations in place, parents are the best line of defence. Remember, no amount of online filters or safety controls can replace parental supervision and communication. Work with your teens to decide whom to accept as followers/friends. Assure them, anything making them uncomfortable should be discussed with you, without them fearing punishment. If you see, read, or hear anything sexual from an adult towards your teen online, report it to Cybertip.ca.