Apple's latest child safety features coming to NZ, will warn kids about sending, receiving nude pics

Apple's latest child safety features are coming to New Zealand and will warn Kiwi kids about sending or receiving nude photos.
Photo credit: Getty Images

Apple is introducing to Aotearoa its new child protection features for iPhone, iPad and Mac that warn child users about sending or receiving photos containing nudity.

These new communication safety features have been active in the US since late last year, but are now being activated in New Zealand and Australia via software updates in the coming weeks.

The feature isn't turned on by default - parents or guardians would need to enable it for the child accounts in their Family Sharing plan.

All the scanning of images is carried out on the devices themselves rather than being sent to Apple for assessment, the company said, meaning they stay encrypted and should only be seen by the sender and recipient in the Messages app.

With the feature turned on, if nudity is detected in an image, it will be blurred and the child will receive a warning message about the "sensitive" content with options of what to do next. 

"Don't share anything you don't want to. Talk to someone you trust if you feel pressured to view naked photos or videos. You're not alone and can always talk with someone who's trained to help," one of the messages reads.

"It's your choice, but make sure you feel safe".

Communication safety in Messages, part of Apple's Expanded Protections for Children.
Photo credit: supplied/Apple

"When receiving this type of content, the photo will be blurred and the child will be warned, presented with helpful resources, and reassured it is okay if they do not want to view this photo. Similar protections are available if a child attempts to send photos that contain nudity. In both cases, children are given the option to message someone they trust for help if they choose," Apple said on its website.

"The feature is designed so that no indication of the detection of nudity ever leaves the device. Apple does not get access to the messages, and no notifications are sent to the parent or anyone else."

That last point is important to note for parents - the feature won't notify them if their child has sent or received images containing nudity. Monitoring of their child's Apple devices can be conducted in other ways the parent may choose to implement, but it's not part of the new feature.

Apple is taking its time in rolling out the safety features region by region internationally because it has to work with local experts in child safety in each region.

In New Zealand, the company is working with Netsafe and Keeping It Real Online, and will direct local users to those online resources where appropriate.

Apple has also expanded guidance in Siri, Spotlight and Safari search by adding resources designed to help users stay safe online and to intervene if someone is searching topics related to child exploitation.

"These interventions explain to users that interest in this topic is harmful and problematic, and provide resources from partners to get help with this issue," Apple said on its website.

While the moves have been generally welcomed by experts, there are some concerns they could backfire.

Anyone concerned about them can simply choose to not activate them, however.