Utah woman works with Apple on child safety upgrades for iOS 16

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah County mother of five played a major role to create safety measures included in Apple's latest software update.

Apple's worldwide rollout of all its latest and greatest products happened on Wednesday morning. That includes the new iOS 16 that powers iPhones and tablets.

That new software which will be made available to all Apple users on Monday will include some child safety changes that will make it easier for parents to protect them from harmful products.

"It has been an incredible process," said Melissa McKay. She has been working for years to bring about the changes.

"To see these changes rolled out and to understand that more children will be protected because of the work that we have done — I can't imagine a better feeling and I'm just a stay-at-home mom," McKay said.

It was back in 2019 when McKay joined forces with the national organization Protect Young Eyes and the National Center for Sexual Exploitation and sent Apple executives a letter outlining 10 critical fixes for the iOS software.

"I cannot tell you how momentous it is. Because if you look at the iPhone, about 90% of kids are going to own an iPhone at some time. And so they're really the gatekeeper to childhood innocence," said McKay.

"To see a win like this is gratifying," said Chris McKenna, the founder of Protect Young Eyes. He has the beta version of the software and showed KSL-TV how easy it is for parents to make setting changes for their kids.

"When you add kiddos to your family and family sharing, if you say your kid is 6, you're going to get defaults that protect a 6-year-old. If you say your kid is 12, you'll get defaults that are for a 12-year-old instead of having to go in and toggle a bunch of things," he said. "In the past, a parent just had to go and find all of those toggles and switch on their own. Now, this says, 'Hey, if your kid is this old, let's just do these good and logical things to protect them.'"

Sen. Mike Lee also worked with McKay and Mckenna over the years to sound the alarm in Washington and meet with Apple executives to make this happen.

"This is great news," Lee said. "Through a number of phone calls, meetings, and letters in which we've communicated this with various tech executives. We've highlighted a problem, and it's a problem that's starting to be addressed."

The new iOS 16 software will be available for all iPhone users on Monday.

McKay and McKenna said the work is still not done. They still want to see some changes to the child rating system on Apple's apps and more controls for texting kids.

Correction: An earlier version said many suggested fixes that McKay sent to Apple were changed, but only some were.

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