To all the parents who want to know more about who your kids are talking to on their smartphones, I have good news and bad news. The good news: A prominent social media app recently made changes allowing parents and guardians to access more data on the children they care for who are ages 13 to 17. The bad news: You have to download Snapchat.
Once it’s set up and your account is connected with those of your children, Snapchat’s new family center lets you see the child’s friend list, who they’re sending messages to, and report potential abuse. The family center does not let you peek into the content of their messages. Although the new feature allows you to see the approximate time your teen messaged someone during the past week, an exact timestamp isn’t provided.
It’s not as flashy as the company’s recently nixed flying selfie camera, but the family center is a worthwhile safety feature that may pique the interest of parents who have little familiarity with Snapchat. For more guidance on finding the balance as a parent between tracking your kids for safety reasons and accidentally cultivating a homespun surveillance state, check out this article from contributor Cyd Harrell.
How to Use Snapchat’s Family Center
Yes, you’ll actually need to download Snapchat on your smartphone to use the family center. After it’s downloaded, open the Snapchat app and tap Sign Up if you don’t already have an account. The sign-up process starts with a request to access the contact list on your smartphone (which you can allow or decline). Then, enter your full name and choose Sign Up & Accept. Input your date of birth and tap Continue.
Snapchat will autogenerate a username for you on the next page. Choose Change my username if you’d like to adjust it, otherwise you can tap Continue again. Enter a custom password and your phone number or email address to finish Snapchat’s sign-up process. Tap the Skip button in the top right corner if you want to put off connecting with your friends and creating a Bitmoji avatar.
So, now you have a Snapchat account. Go ahead and add your child as a mutual friend by exchanging usernames or Snap codes. It’s required you connect as mutuals before you can add your kid to the family center. Once you’re ready to set up the family center, look for your profile icon in the top left corner of the app’s home screen, and tap on it. Then choose the gear button along the top right and scroll down until you see a section labeled Privacy Controls.
This is where you’ll encounter the new family center control panel. Since you’re already friends with your teen on Snapchat, you can tap on their name and give them the opportunity to enroll as a family member by selecting Send Invitation. Then, the family member invite is sent over Snapchat as a direct message with a link to sign up.
Remember that once the family center is activated you’ll get live access to a list of your teen’s friends on Snapchat and the last time they messaged a user throughout the week. You will have zero access to the child’s frequency of communication with users or any saved photos. The feature is designed as an extra layer of privacy and security for minors on Snapchat, and users who are 18 and over are not eligible for tracking.