Snapchat introduces new parental controls

NEW YORK  Snapchat will now give parents the option to block their teens from interacting with the app’s “My AI” chatbot following some questions about the tool’s safety for young people.

The change will mean that if parents opt to turn off the tool, teens can message My AI but the chatbot will respond only with a note that it has been disabled.

Thursday’s announcement is part of a broader set of additions to Snapchat’s parental oversight tool Family Center.

The Snapchat login screen on a smartphone arranged in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, US, on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.

Snap rolled out My AI in April, a launch that was quickly met with worries from parents about whether it was healthy for their children to be conversing with a highly personalized computer chatbot.

Snapchat said in a blog post Thursday that My AI already included “protections against inappropriate or harmful responses, temporary usage restrictions if Snapchatters repeatedly misuse the service, and age-awareness.”

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Snapchat will also now offer parents visibility into their teens’ safety and privacy settings in the Family Center. A parent can see who their child shares their Stories posts with, who is able to contact their child on the app and whether their child is sharing their location with friends on the app’s live “Snap Map” feature.

The changes are just the latest updates to Family Center, which lets parents supervise the behavior of 13- to 17-year-old users. The feature launched in 2022 amid widespread concerns about the safety of young users on Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and other social media platforms.

Snapchat to let parents decide whether their teens can use the app’s AI chatbot

Snapchat will now let parents decide whether their teen can chat with the app’s My AI chatbot.

A federal judge in November ruled that Snapchat parent company Snap, along with Google, Meta and TikTok, must face a lawsuit alleging that their services addicted teen users and caused other mental health harms. The companies had moved to dismiss the lawsuit on First Amendment grounds and cited the legal shield known as Section 230.

Since the Family Center launch, Snapchat has continued to roll out various youth safety measures, including a “strike system” introduced in September for accounts promoting content inappropriate for teens in its Stories and Spotlight sections, where users can share content publicly on the app.

“Family Center reflects the dynamics of real-world relationships between parents and teens, where parents have insight into who their teens are spending time with, while still respecting the privacy of their personal communications,” the company said in its post.

The platform is also aiming to make Family Center easier to find. The feature can now be accessed in the settings section, or by tapping near the “bitmoji” icon at the top left of the app’s home screen and searching relevant terms such as “safety,” “family” or “parent.”

Thursday’s update comes ahead of a planned appearance by Snap CEO Evan Spiegel at a Senate subcommittee hearing later this month about youth safety on social media. Spiegel will be joined by executives from Meta, TikTok, X and Discord.