Snapchat is rolling out a new in-app safety feature called Family Center that will allow parents to see who their kids are talking to and report any accounts that might be concerning. 

As one of the most popular social media apps for tweens and teens, this new Snapchat safety tool enables parents to monitor their kids’ connections without inhibiting their autonomy and how they use the app. Family Center requires that both the parents/caregivers and the teen to opt into its features.

Earlier this year, Instagram launched its own Family Center safety portal. While Instagram allows parents to set time limits and gives them the ability to see how long their child has been “active,” Snapchat’s Family Center will not offer parents that level of control. (Though both iOS and Android systems have time limitation tools anyone can use for any app.)

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“It allows parents to see who’s in their teen’s universe,” Nona Farahnik, director of platform policy for Snap, tells NPR. “It offers parents the ability to ask who someone might be, how they might know a contact, which prompts those kids of real-time conversations about who teens are talking to.”

Why is Snapchat so popular with kids?

Well, for starters, it’s because they can communicate with their friends and keep up on being trendy—and parents aren’t really on the app in ways kids might consider a “buzzkill.” 

The allure of disappearing messages is a huge reason why people of all ages use the app. Messages within the platform disappear after 24 hours.

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How old do you have to be to use Snapchat?

According to the terms of service, users must be 13. You have to enter your birth date to set up an account, but there's no age verification—which means it's easy for kids under 13 to sign up if they have access to a tablet or a phone. 

Common Sense Media rates Snapchat OK for teens 16 and up, mainly because of the exposure to age-inappropriate content and the shady way the app can collect data.

Why does Snapchat need Family Center?

Because it’s easy to add friends in the app, which means it's easy to wind up with a lot of strangers as “friends.” And because the app can collect data pretty easily, the app can learn all about users’ habits both inside and outside of the app. Snapchat also shares data with several third-party sites.

While parents can’t see the content their teen is sending or receiving on Snapchat, they can view who their kids have communicated with during the past seven days. This way, parents are “in the know” about who their kids are talking to, and kids can still send their short-lived messages without fear of their parents knowing what they say.

Related: How you use social media may be associated with your parenting style

According to a Snapchat blog post:

"Family Center is designed to reflect the way that 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.”