Facebook to allow parents to monitor their kids' chat messages

Facebook has announced plans to add new parental tools to its Messenger app for users under the age of 13.

This will allow concerned parents to finally monitor their children's chats online, months after concerns were raised around the app's safety.

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"Messenger Kids" was launched back in 2017 and allowed children who are too young to have a full Facebook account to still benefit from Facebook chat features.

'One stop grooming shop for predators'

In August, Facebook fixed a flaw within the app that accidentally allowed thousands of children to join group chats in which not all children participating in the chats were approved by parents.

End-to-end encryption hides whoever is receiving and sending messages from a third party.

Facebook has also been moving to encrypt its messaging services, which include Facebook Messenger and Instagram.

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Facebook has said that the new features on Messenger Kids will include access for parents to see their children’s chat history.

WhatsApp, also owned by Facebook, is already encrypted and child protection agencies worry that overwhelming encryption may make detecting online predators more difficult.

The child protection agency NSPCC said in August that Facebook risked becoming a "one stop grooming shop" for children if they continued to enforced end-to-end-encryption.

Encryption can make it difficult to source predators online (Photo: Shutter)

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Predators can hide behind encryption

Data obtained by the NSPCC via freedom of information requests to the police between April 2018 and 2019 showed that, out of 9,259 instances of children being groomed on a known platform, 4,000 were identified as being on Facebook platforms including Instagram and Whatsapp.

However, only 299 instances were identified as being from WhatsApp, which the NSPCC says highlights how difficult it becomes to detect crimes on an end-to-end encrypted platform.

The charity believes criminals will be able to carry out more serious child abuse on Facebook's apps undetected without needing to lure them off to encrypted platforms, if it goes ahead with changes.

Facebook has not confirmed whether Messenger Kids will be encrypted or not. The company said it will inform Messenger Kids users on the types of information others can see about them.

Ofcom published a report today detailing how 50 per cent of 10-year-old children in the UK now use smartphones.