Snapchat’s parental controls actually don’t let parents view messages, added friends, live locations and more

Snapchat’s parental controls actually don’t let parents view the contents of the messagest their kids exchange, but that’s not the only unsupported feature.

Promotional image showcasing Snapchat's Family Center with various parental controls
Snapchat’s parental controls in the mobile app | Image: Snap
  • What’s happening? Snapchat on August 9 unveiled its parental controls, dubbed Family Center. Due to Snapchat’s approach to ephemeral messaging, there are several limits to what parents can expect from this feature.
  • Why care? Every responsible parent should be interested in preventing their children to be groomed by adults within the app. So while the Family Center lets parents view who their juniors are chatting with, they can’t view the actual contents of the messages being exchanged. Similarly, parents can’t stop kids from sharing their live locations within the app.
  • What to do? If you’re a parent, read Snap’s announcement and the company’s guide to Snapchat for parents [PDF download] to learn about the limitations of the Family Center. If you’re a Snapchat-using kid, there’s nothing to do aside from becoming more aware of who you interact with using the app.

Snapchat’s parental controls are lacking depth

Snapchat so far didn’t have any controls that would permit parents to control how their kids are using the ephemeral messaging platform but this is starting to change. The new parental controls dubbed Family Center, announced in Snap’s blog post, are less capable than similar features found on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and the like. Yes, the Family Center lets parents see the accounts their kid is conversing with, see their friend list and flag potential abuse, but that’s pretty much it.

Snapchat has said that it will continue expanding the Family Center features in future updates to give parents more ways to monitor what their teenager is doing on Snapchat. For now though, here are some very useful parental controls that Snapchat’s Family Center doesn’t support at launch.

Age limitation

Snapchat is designed for teens aged 13-18. Parents cannot police accounts of kids younger than 13 (who should now be using Snapchat in the first place). The same applies when their teenager turns 19. It’s disappointing that parents cannot turn off data collection for their teen’s accounts to better protect their privacy.

Cannot restrict messaging and friend lists

Parents can see the accounts their kids messaged in the past seven days, but that’s about it. The Family Center won’t let you as a parent view the contents of the messages. Parents also cannot restrict messaging for specific accounts on their child’s friend list. Like before, friend lists on Snapchat are private but parents can now at least view who their child is friends with on the platform.

Cannot disable sending photos and videos

When a predator starts bombarding your kid with sexually-explicit images and videos, the first instinct as a parent is to disable media exchange on the service. It would be great if Snapchat let parents block their kids from sending photos to friends privately for a limited time.

A dedicated filter to analyze images being sent in chats for sexually explicit material would also be great. Why not at least put up a scary warning before allowing your kid to receive potentially abusive material? Apple offers this in the Messages app.

No time limits

The Family Center doesn’t enable you to define the total time your kid is allowed to spend in the app per day. Apple’s Screen Time feature lets parents set time limits alongside the iOS parental controls. Something like TikTok’s restricted mode for younger users would be appreciated. Read: How to fix Screen Time not working

No control over likes and comments

Snapchat’s parental controls don’t support turning off the ability for others to like what your kids shares on the service. You also cannot turn off comments. Snapchat users must be mutual friends to begin communicating so a stalker might resort to using likes and comments. Instagram, TikTok and many other platforms provide such features as part of their set of parental controls.

Cannot view live locations

The parental controls on Snapchat come short in terms of the ability for parents to set whether their kid can share live location with friends. The app also enables users to share live locations on the Snap Map but parents don’t have any control over location sharing on the Snap Map. Read: How to clear your Apple Maps history

No control over Snapchat’s Discover section

Snapchat’s parental controls don’t extend to the app’s Discover section. And that’s a major problem given the fact that the Discover section is plagued with low-quality content and clickbait. Oftentimes recommendations in the Discover section include graphic, adult content, posts about suicide attempts and other content that many parents would deem harmful to their teenagers.

How to use Snapchat’s Family Center parental controls

Parents must install the Snapchat app [App Store link] on their own phones and use it to link their accounts to their kids. Your child will need to accept your invitation in the app before you can start using the Family Center features.

If everything goes well, you should be now able to get to the new parental controls from your profile settings within the app. Alternatively, search for “family center”, “parental controls” or related keywords to surface relevant content.