June 2, 2023

SAN FRANCISCO — As the social media platform faces increasing scrutiny for exposing young users to potentially harmful content, ephemeral messaging app Snapchat rolled out its first parental controls on Tuesday.

Snapchat’s parent company Snap a blog post Its new tool lets parents see who their teens are friends with on the app and who they’ve communicated with in the past seven days. Parents can also report accounts where their child is a friend if their child violates Snapchat’s policies. Parents will not be able to see their child’s conversations on the app.

In order to gain access to the controls, people must create a Snapchat account and befriend their children, and they must agree to the controls. Additional features will be rolled out later, the company said, including the ability for parents to see who their kids have been friends with recently. Teens can also notify their parents if they report accounts or content.

“Our goal was to create a suite of tools designed to mirror the dynamics of real-world relationships and foster cooperation and trust between parents and teens,” Snap said in a blog post.

Snap, Instagram, TikTok and other social media companies are facing questions from lawmakers, regulators and activists for toxic content on their platforms, leading some young people to say the apps exacerbate eating disorders and contribute to other mental health problems. Snap has also been criticized for how its app lets teens buy drugs like fentanyl.

The concerns were raised last year when internal documents released by a former Facebook employee showed that some teens seemed to feel worse about themselves after using products such as Instagram. Executives from Instagram, Snap, TikTok and YouTube later testified before Congress on whether social media harms young people. In March, a group of state attorneys general asked Snap and TikTok to increase parental controls over their apps.

Other countries are also taking action to protect young people from social media. In September, the UK introduced new child safety regulations, which prompted platforms such as Instagram to introduce the first parental controls. Instagram’s parental controls allow people to view and limit the time their kids spend on the app.

Snap has also been battling a downturn in its business of late. Last month, the company reported its slowest quarterly growth on record amid a weak economy and a challenging advertising business.

Snapchat’s parental controls will add to existing restrictions on how teens can use Snapchat. Teens currently have to be mutual friends to message each other on the app, and their profiles and friend lists are private. The app requires users to be at least 13 years old, and teens cannot change their birth year in the app until they are 18.

Parental controls are available in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. They will be available in other countries starting this fall.

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