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Snapchat rolling out option to let parents see who their teens are messaging

Here's how it'll work.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Under pressure from parents and lawmakers, Snapchat says it will roll out a new tool to give parents more insight on who their teens are talking to.

Family Center, announced by Snapchat on Tuesday, promises to show parents who their teens are friends with and who they're messaging -- though the actual conversations will remain private. 

Parents will need to make a Snapchat account to use the feature, and their teens will need to opt in.

"Our goal is to help empower parents and teens in a way that still protects a teenager’s autonomy and privacy," Snapchat's parent company Snap said in a news release. It said the feature will be available in the coming weeks, and a company representative declined to give more specific timing details. 

Snapchat allows people to send photos, videos and messages that quickly disappear, a perk to young users who want to avoid snooping parents and teachers. 

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The announcement comes amid growing pressure for social media companies to protect vulnerable young people.

When she and other social media executives were grilled by Congress in October of last year, Snapchat Global VP Jennifer Stout said "more work" needed to be done. She told lawmakers Snapchat was working on parental tools. 

Pressed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., about a 19-year-old said to have died from counterfeit pain medication he bought through Snapchat, Stout said, “We’re absolutely determined to remove all drug dealers from Snapchat.” 

She said the platform has deployed detection measures against dealers but acknowledged that they are often evaded.  

At the time, Snapchat said an eye-popping 90% of 13- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. use the service. The company's website reports 347 million daily active users. 

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Family Center won't provide a way for parents to know if a teen makes an alternative account, and the usernames it provides may not always clue parents in to a person's true identity. Snapchat says having multiple accounts is against the app's terms of service, and that someone with multiple accounts would need to log entirely out of the app to switch between them.

Snapchat said it will roll out more Family Center options in the fall, including "new content controls for parents and the ability for teens to notify their parents when they report an account or a piece of content to us."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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