A new Facebook roll-out means parents are being advised to “think carefully” about letting their children use the social media platform – here’s why

If your child has a Facebook account, you’ll want to know about the controversial decision from Meta

Teenage girl on her phone using Facebook
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The government agency responsible for protecting the public from serious and organised crime has criticised Meta – Facebook’s parent company – for its decision to implement encrypted messages. 

As more people become exposed to the dangers of sharenting, knowing how to keep your kids safe online will be a top priority for parents, especially if your child has a Facebook account. 

And a latest roll-out by the social media platform means that messages will be encoded or scrambled in a way that makes them unreadable to anyone except the intended recipient. While the purpose of encrypted messages is to ensure the privacy of users on messaging apps such as WhatsApp, the National Crime Agency (NCA) says its role in protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation “just got harder”.

Teenage boy using Facebook at home

Teenage boy on his smartphone using Facebook at home

(Image credit: Getty Images)

James Babbage, Director General for Threats at the National Crime Agency, said: “It is hugely disappointing that Meta is choosing to roll out end-to-end encryption on Facebook Messenger. They have an important responsibility to keep children safe on their platform and sadly, this will no longer be possible.

“Today our role in protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation just got harder."

He continued: “As a result of Meta’s design choices, the company will no longer be able to see the offending occurring on their messaging platform, and law enforcement will no longer be able to obtain this evidence from them.”

Schools Standards Minister Damian Hinds has also condemned the decision as “morally reprehensible”, and the agency anticipates that it will result in thousands of fewer cases of child abuse being reported to the police each year. 

Meanwhile, Rob Jones, Director of General Operations for the NCA believes the social media platform’s decision to put encrypted messages into effect was based on “profitability” and is urging parents to “think carefully” about allowing their children to use Facebook as a result.

How to keep your kids safe online

There are a few actions to take in order to keep your kids safe online such as putting time limits in place to manage their use, talking to your child about the dangers of social media and explore their favourite apps together.

If your child is wanting their own Facebook profile, set it up with them and go through the privacy settings to ensure their online data is protected. You could also speak to them about why it's important to only accept people who are really their friends and deny requests from someone who they've never met in person.

For more safety advice online, the NSPCC has a weekly newsletter that offers information and news so you can stay up to date with the latest guidance on social media.

Technology and social media is a contentious subject among celebrity parents too, with recent news that Jimmy Fallon sparks parenting debate after revealing gifts for his daughters while Bradley Cooper’s conscious parenting style means he won’t do this when he’s with his daughter.

Daniella Gray
Family News & Wellbeing Writer

From building healthy family relationships to self-care tips for mums and parenting trends - Daniella also covers postnatal workouts and exercises for kids. After gaining a Print Journalism BA Hons degree and NCTJ Diploma in Journalism at Nottingham Trent University, Daniella started writing for Health & Wellbeing and co-hosted the Walk to Wellbeing podcast. She has also written for Stylist, Natural Health, The Sun UK and Fit & Well. In her free time, Daniella loves to travel, try out new fitness classes and cook for family and friends.