Snapchat wants to better protect underage users of the platform with the introduction of new functions. For example, friend suggestions for children aged 13-17 are now limited.
Only if someone is already known to several friends will he or she be suggested as a potential friend via the quick add function. In this way, the social media platform hopes that users will less frequently come into contact with malicious parties. For example, according to Snapchat, it affects adults trying to sell drugs.
It has not yet been announced how many direct contacts someone must already be friends with in order to be included in the suggestions.
Snapchat also wants to give parents more control over who their kids interact with through the app. The company claims to respect user privacy. More information about these features should be revealed in the coming months.
Snapchat is a popular app among young people in the Netherlands. According to researchers, the app has more than 2.5 million users in our country, the vast majority of whom are under 20 years old.
“We know that children are vulnerable on the Internet,” says GZ psychologist and social media expert Najla Edriouch. In more than a quarter of all cases of abuse identified, initial contact was via apps such as Snapchat and TikTok. There were a total of 86 sexual offenses, the Dutch Forensic Institute reported last year.
According to Edriouch, the move Snapchat is taking now can certainly make a difference. But that’s still difficult to say, because the details of the new function are still missing. “Ultimately, people with malicious intent always find a way. But of course it’s good if it’s made more difficult for them,” says Edriouch.
In her opinion, the American tech company’s move seems to fall into a trend. Both Facebook and Instagram have recently similar changes in the course of studies that show how strongly these apps can affect the well-being of young users in particular.
Edriouch: “It got people thinking and companies are being addressed. You then see that platforms are taking all sorts of measures to better protect their followers. I think that’s also with the following thought in mind: how can we be parents too? They feel their kid is using a safe platform so they won’t ban it.”
Irrespective of a company’s exact motivations, the psychologist believes that it is particularly important that platforms become active. She points out that the time young people spend on social media has continued to increase during the pandemic and lockdown.