Late last year, Facebook, Inc. rolled out a new messaging platform aimed at children ages 4-13. Messenger Kids is available for iOS and Android and promises safer video calls and texting for kids. Facebook describes the app as such:
“Messenger Kids is a free video calling and messaging app designed for kids to connect with close friends and family from their tablet or smartphone. Kids can only connect with parent-approved contacts, which creates a more controlled environment. Group or one-on-one video calls with loved ones are more fun with interactive masks, reactions, and sound effects.”
Unlike other messaging apps, Messenger Kids requires authentication with a parent’s Facebook account giving parents full control over the app. You have control of the app’s contacts so you can decide who you allow your children to message with. Also, messages have permanence meaning they do not disappear after a period of time like Snapchat.
Messenger Kids promises ease of use and fun ways for kids to interact through photos, videos, and gifs. The app does not employ ads, nor does it offer in-app purchases. The promise of security and the high level of parental controls may be a good way to ease your child into messaging. However, with any interactions, it is important to talk to your children about the technology, establish clear rules and boundaries and also monitor their online interactions. Even with the high level of controls offered to parents, there is no way to control the actual content being transmitted. Bullying and sharing of inappropriate content are still possible through the app, though Facebook allows kids to block other users and report online bullying.
Facebook seems committed to the idea of this app despite recent problems they have had with online privacy. They have recently pushed an update to the app that included a new “sleep mode”. This setting allows parents to set an off time in the app after which their children can no longer interact with their friends and family online.
If you’re an active Facebook user and have tech-savvy kids looking for ways to interact with their friends online, Messenger Kids might be a good place to start. Remember to talk to them about online safety, and make sure they feel comfortable telling you about anything inappropriate they may encounter when online. Common Sense Media offers a review of Messenger Kids focusing on items that matter most to parents as well some other tips for talking to your kids about online safety.
For more information on Messenger Kids from Facebook visit https://messengerkids.com