Smart Living | Digital Parenting

Digital Parenting | 03 Jul 2023

New parental controls available on Instagram and Messenger

Emma Robertson, from Vodafone Digital Parenting partner Digital Awareness UK, runs through Meta's updates to their messaging and social media apps.

This week we attended a wellbeing event at Meta, where they announced a suite of new parental controls tools now available on their messaging app Messenger (still commonly known as Facebook Messenger) and their photo and video sharing app Instagram.

At Digital Awareness UK we’ve noticed a real shift in parents’ attitudes towards parental controls in recent months. As headlines around issues such as online misogyny continue to dominate the news, parents are increasingly looking for solutions around how to use these tools to help protect their children from the nasty stuff.

As parental controls can get a bit confusing (which is why we created Digital Parenting Pro to help parents make sense of it all), so we’ll break down the most important information you need to know in this article.

Digital Parenting Pro promo image showing the app on a smartphone


On this messaging app, parents and guardians can now access ‘supervision tools’. These are basically parental controls that parents can access only if both the parent and child (a user aged under 18) agree to it. Supervision is already available on Instagram. On Messenger, it will allow parents to:

  • view how much time their child spends on Messenger
  • view and receive updates on their child’s Messenger contacts list, as well as their privacy and safety settings
  • get notified if their child reports someone (only if the child chooses to share that information)
  • view who can message their child (that is, only their friends, friends of friends, or no-one) and see if their child changes this setting
  • view who can see their child’s Messenger stories and get notified if these settings change.


More Parental Supervision tools have been added to Instagram, enabling parents to:

  • See how many friends their child has in common with the accounts their child follows and is followed by. This sounds complicated, but we think Meta is suggesting that if a child has friends on Instagram who also follow an account their child is following, that account is probably less problematic.
  • Customise which notifications from Parental Supervision they want to receive and how often they receive them.

Meta will also start sending teens a new notice on Instagram after they’ve blocked someone, encouraging them to add their parents to supervise their account for additional support:

Instagram direct messages (DMs) are getting a number of new features, but these are still in testing:

  • People will not be able to message someone who doesn’t follow them – they will need to send an invite to get their permission to connect first.
  • People will only be able to send one invite to someone at a time and can’t send more until the recipient accepts the invitation to connect.
  • Message requests will be text only (until the recipient has accepted the invite to chat), to prevent people from sending unwanted photos, videos, or other types of media.

Now at Digital Awareness UK, we continue to shout from the rooftops that “parents shouldn’t rely on tech to solve tech-related problems”. While parental controls can be fantastic for helping parents manage what our children see and do online, they will never be a substitute for conversation.

‘We need parental controls to protect our kids, but we also need to talk’

As Vodafone UK launches Digital Parenting Pro, a content controls hub for parents and carers, Nicki Lyons, Chief Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Officer, reflects on how resources like this can protect kids from unsuitable content and help families have more informed conversations around online safety.

That’s why we’ve included lots of conversation starters in the Parental Controls & Safety Settings Guide.

If you want to understand more about how to put these parental controls into action, check out Digital Parenting Pro, one of the UK’s largest parental controls and safety settings resources.

Find out more about Digital Awareness UK.

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