Facebook’s Portal to stop kids from watching content unsupervised

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Facebook is rolling out an update to Portal devices that will allow users to disable the Watch Together function during Household Mode calls. The change comes after a BuzzFeed News piece chastised Facebook for failing to include a “off” key for the feature.

Watching shows, music videos, or hilarious clips with distant friends or family members is possible with Watch Together. Choose a video from Facebook’s library, and it will appear on both your Portal and your friend’s device, whether that device is a phone, tablet, or Portal.

While Watch Together may appear to be a good idea, it is clearly not suitable for parents who want to keep their children away from online movies. When a Portal device is set to Household Mode, it is accessible to everyone in the house, including children. In Household Mode, the Watch Together option is hidden, but it reappears during calls. As BuzzFeed News pointed out, this can be a formula for catastrophe because children can seize the gadget, dial a phone number, and start watching videos with others.

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Right now, there’s no option to turn off Watch Together during calls in Household Mode, which may frustrate some parents, but that’s about to change. Andrew Bosworth, the vice president of Facebook Reality Labs, responded to the BuzzFeed News revelation with a tweet stating that Facebook is working on a solution.

All Portal devices are intended for use by families and are not intended for use by children without parental supervision. In December, we’ll be releasing the ability to turn off Watch Together in calls via Household Mode, so ask and you shall receive.

In December, users will be able to disable Watch Together during calls in Household Mode, although it’s a shame it didn’t come with this feature in the first place. It feels like an omission that could’ve — and should’ve — never happened, especially since the new Portal Go is geared toward children. Why does the device require you to have a Facebook account to use it, and why didn’t it come with tougher parental controls out of the box if it’s so kid-friendly?

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