Snapchat rolls out new 'Family Centre' feature letting parents see who contacts their children

Social media app Snapchat is rolling out a new tool for parents to see who their children are connecting with online, but it's prompting concerns about giving parents a false sense of security.

Snapchat's new Family Centre feature is now available in New Zealand.

It's a go-to hub for tools and resources to help parents get more insight into who their teens are friends with on the app.

The new resource is aimed at "empowering" parents in an online era.

"Our new feature which gives parents visibility into who their teens are communicating with on Snapchat, while still respecting the privacy of those communications," Snapchat's APAC head of policy Henry Turnbull told Newshub.

The Snapchat app lets users exchange short-lived photos and messages.

In its own promotional material, it said its new Family Centre feature allows parents of teens between 13 and 18 years old to view their friend list and confidentially report accounts of concern.

But messages and content cannot be viewed.

Mum-of-two Linda Collier said the feature will help ease her worries about what her kids are doing on the app.

"Just being able to see who they're talking to, or even how often they're talking to somebody, will definitely ease our worries."

Snapchat user John Collier said having privacy as a teenager is crucial.

"For kids my age and other kids my age I think privacy's really important to us."

Internet New Zealand's latest research shows about 27 percent of Kiwis are using Snapchat at least once a week. It also found that cyberbullying and young people accessing inappropriate content are the leading concerns about the internet in Aotearoa.

Paula Mills' teenage daughter Summer died in 2018 after she was viciously bullied over social media.

"The impact has been absolutely huge and horrific but sadly, social media is here to stay," Mills said.

Mills is not convinced Snapchat's new tool will be effective.

"It's easy for people to have fake identities, fake names, fake profiles."

She also added: "It could be lulling parents into a false sense of security."

Internet safety group Netsafe's Sean Lyons said Snapchat's new tool is a good step towards improved online safety.

"At least they'll have an idea of who it is young people are talking to, and maybe that's the start of one of those difficult conversations, in terms of 'Here's a name I've never seen before'."

But Lyons sympathises with parents trying to wrap their heads around the vast world of online apps.

"I think it can be exceptionally daunting."

An attempt to give parents even a tiny sense of control in a largely unregulated online world.