Shielding teens from social media

Teenagers today spend significantly more time browsing on social media platforms than before, and to combat that issue, platforms like Snapchat and TikTok have recently implemented new parental features and controls. Although some aspects of parental control, like screen time, could be beneficial for improving teenagers’ time management, others are a violation of privacy.

Beginning in March, TikTok enabled parents to set screen-time limits and mute notifications for their children through the Family Pairing feature, which was a convenient update for the parents, as setting screen time limits can help their teens efficiently manage their time. 

Adding screen time options for teens was a reasonable and necessary change by TikTok; however, some of the changes Snapchat has made in this past year have been too intrusive.

With the new “Family Center” feature added last August, Snapchat crossed the fine line between ensuring young users’ well-being and invading their privacy. This new addition enabled parents to view their child’s friends and the people to whom they have been talking. With this addition, teens would no longer be able to keep private information from their parents, inhibiting their freedom of expression and killing their social boundaries.

Snapchat took it a step further by launching new parental controls this past March that filtered the type of content viewed by their child. Once these controls are enabled, they restrict users from viewing content marked as sensitive or suggestive. 

These additions permitted many parents to overstep their child’s boundaries. For teens, constant supervision from parents may come with many negative effects, such as the development of trust issues, ultimately deteriorating the parent-child relationship. A FHE Health article stated that the most significant effect of this loss of privacy is the eroded trust in others.

Unfortunately, many companies may be following in Snapchat’s footsteps. Discord, the world’s largest gaming-chat platform, is rumored to also be working on a “Family Center’’ feature very much like Snapchat’s. The functionality will also be similar, with parents being able to view the servers, friends and group chats in which their children are active, but not the actual messages.

Rather than “shielding” teens on social media websites, companies and parents should direct their attention toward communicating with them about emotional well-being, while allowing them more freedom in the process. After all, nothing teaches us better than our own experiences.