Google Messages getting strict Parental Controls reveals app’s beta version

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Google Messages could soon get Parental Controls. Conversations inside the app may require an adult’s permission to go through, and perhaps even to be opened or viewed.

Google Messages app’s beta version has Parental Controls

Google Messages has been evolving quickly. The iMessage rival could soon offer parents more supervisory power and the ability to restrict messages.

X (formerly Twitter) user AssembleDebug discovered the new feature. The user even managed to activate the Parental Control feature that is hidden inside a beta version of the Google Messages app.

It appears the Parental Control feature was present in quite a few previous versions of the Google Messages app. However, for some reason, Google kept this feature hidden and deactivated.

AssembleDebug managed to activate Parental Control within version 20240416_00_RC01 of the Google Messages app. Some experimental flags, not available to general users, had to be triggered for Parental Controls to be visible and valuable.

The Google Messages app is a complete replacement for traditional SMS/MMS messaging platforms for Android smartphones. Google has been reminding Android smartphone users to install and switch over to the Google Messages app.

How does the Parental Control feature work?

As the above Tweet indicates, Parental Controls in the Google Messages app activate “Ask your parent for approval” and “To send, ask your parent for approval” for some message threads.

These notifications imply children will need permission from an adult to operate the app. Without approval, a child or teen won’t be able to send or receive messages within that particular conversation thread. The setting may even restrict viewing messages from certain contacts or groups.

Given the scope of the Google Messages app, it is quite likely that these settings would apply to RCS (Rich Communication Services) and traditional SMS/MMS messaging.

It is not immediately clear how children would seek a parent’s approval. Some reports suggest this new feature may be managed by the Family Link app or a web interface. Parents may have to manage each messaging thread. Adults would be able to exempt certain conversations or change the permission setting for the entire app.

With Parental Control, parents would be able to approve, restrict, or even completely block their children’s messaging activities. They would have the ability to restrict conversations on a per-contact or per-conversation basis.

Needless to say, this feature has far-reaching implications. Recently Meta activated a new feature that blurs images with nudity and warns users before sending such messages.

Google seems to have gone multiple steps ahead. The new feature could invariably spark multiple debates about privacy. However, parents may welcome the new feature, especially due to the alarming risks such as sextortion, cyberbullying, and much more.