Although it may not get as much attention as the shiny new iPhones or some of the other features in the newly released iOS 17, Apple’s update has some important safety features for children, teens and parents, including content created for Apple by ConnectSafely, displayed on iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches.
Communications Safety Feature
With this new version, Apple’s Communication Safety feature, which warns children when receiving or sending nude images, is expanding to FaceTime video messages, AirDrop, Contact Posters and the Photo picker that people use to select photos or videos to share or upload. And, by default, it will be turned on for all children enrolled in a family-sharing plan. Unless it’s disabled, any incoming nude images on a child or teen’s phone will be blurred, and before any such images can be sent or viewed, the child or teen will be warned that the image contains sensitive content, giving the young person a chance to avoid receiving or sending the image along with access to online safety advice.
Communication safety is available on iPhone, Macintosh and Apple Watch.
ConnectSafely Content Part of iOS
In the U.S., the Screen Time section of iOS, where all family accounts are configured, already had links to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Cybertipline, where users can report child sexual abuse material as well as resources from Thorn and Crisis Text Line. But starting with iOS 17, there will also be general online safety information available globally, with separate sections for preteens, teens and parents. This content was created by ConnectSafely in partnership with Apple.
ConnectSafely’s content on iOS includes advice on sexual grooming, the posting and receiving of inappropriate photos and videos, and in-depth information on cyberbullying, with advice for young people as well as advice for parents whose children have been cyberbullied or have cyberbullied others. There is also content on cybersecurity, privacy and recommendations about other general safety topics.
The content includes a discussion on sexual grooming with possible warning signs of grooming and advice on talking with kids about grooming.
Parents are advised to talk with their children, preteens and teens about all aspects of staying safe online, with specific advice organized by age group on issues related to sharing nude and otherwise inappropriate photos and videos.
Parents are advised that “communication is the key” and to “express interest in the apps your child uses and the sites they visit … so you can understand the platform, its privacy settings and why your child likes it.” The conversation “can be short, but you should revisit it periodically. Reassure them that if something bad happens, you’ll be there for them.”
ConnectSafely also advises parents to “consider using tools like Screen Time to monitor your child’s device use, but make it a learning experience and revisit any controls as your child matures.”
Advice for kids and teens
In addition to the advice for parents, ConnectSafely has developed age-appropriate content specifically for children and teens, with separate sections for kids under 13 and teens. The materials for young children were written with advice from children’s book author Julia Cook.