Facebook has revealed new plans to add tools and features for parental control in its messaging app for users under the age of 13, months after questions rose about application’s privacy protection for children.
The new features will include access for parents to see their children's chat history and will allow them to keep a track of the accounts which are blocked or unblocked on the application, the company said.
Parents can also see the most recent photos or videos sent and received in the app's inbox, and can remove them if needed, Facebook added.
In August, Facebook acknowledged a flaw it fixed in Messenger Kids that allowed thousands of children to join group chats in which not all members of the group were approved by their parents.
Facebook has been under scrutiny by multiple governments over child safety protections on its suite of apps, especially since announcing its plan to extend end-to-end encryption across its messaging services last year.
Facebook is considering end-to-end encryption on Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct - on top of WhatsApp, which is already encrypted - but there has been deep concern that the move could prevent child abusers being caught.
Out of 9,259 instances where police in England and Wales said they know the platform used in child abuse image and online child sexual offences, just over 4,000 were carried out on Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp.
The data - obtained by the charity from freedom of information requests to police forces between April 2018 and 2019 - shows that 22% were reported on Instagram, followed by 19% on Facebook or Facebook Messenger.
Only 3% (299 instances) were 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.
"Instead of working to protect children and make the online world they live in safer, Facebook is actively choosing to give offenders a place to hide in the shadows and risks making itself a one-stop grooming shop," said Andy Burrows, NSPCC's head of child safety online policy.
"For far too long, Facebook's mantra has been to move fast and break things but these figures provide a clear snapshot of the thousands of child sex crimes that could go undetected if they push ahead with their plans unchecked.
"If Facebook fails to guarantee encryption won't be detrimental to children's safety, the next Government must make clear they will face tough consequences from day one for breaching their duty of care."