A future update to Facebook’s Portal will stop kids from watching content unsupervised

The Verge - Tue Oct 19 22:19

Facebook is delivering an update to Portal devices that will make it possible to turn off the Watch Together feature during calls in Household Mode. The update comes shortly after a BuzzFeed News article criticized Facebook’s blatant oversight of not including an “off” switch for the feature.

Watch Together lets you watch shows, music videos, or funny clips with distant friends or family members. Choose a video from Facebook’s selection, and it’ll be simultaneously presented to you on your Portal and on your friend’s device, whether that may be a phone, tablet, or Portal.

Watch Together may sound like a great idea, but it obviously isn’t ideal for parents who want to keep their kids away from videos on the internet. When a Portal device is in Household Mode, everyone in the house has access to it, and that includes kids. The Watch Together feature remains hidden in Household Mode, but it reappears during calls. This can be a recipe for disaster, as BuzzFeed News noted, since kids can grab ahold of the device, start up a call, and begin watching videos with others.

Right now, there’s no way to disable Watch Together during calls in Household Mode — likely leaving some parents feeling frustrated — but that’s all about to change. In response to the BuzzFeed News report, Andrew Bosworth, the vice president of Facebook Reality Labs, sent out a tweet that says Facebook is working on a solution.

All Portal devices are for families to use together and not designed for kids to be used without parental supervision. That said, ask and you shall receive, we are rolling out the ability to turn off Watch Together in calls via Household Mode in December.

— Boz (@boztank) October 19, 2021

Users will get the ability to disable Watch Together during calls in Household Mode in December, but it’s sort of disappointing that it didn’t come with this feature in the first place. It feels like an oversight that could’ve — and should’ve — never happened, especially because Facebook is catering the new Portal Go to kids. If the device is so kid-friendly, why does it require you to have a Facebook account to use it, and why didn’t it come with stricter parental controls out of the box?