Facebook Messenger Kids App Review: Should Your Child Be Using Facebook’s New App?

Messenger Kids is Facebook’s new social messaging app, designed for young people to connect with friends and family. The free app, aimed at children aged 6- to 12-years old, allows messages, pictures and videos to be exchanged between pre-approved contacts. Messenger Kids offers substantial parental control and could be an opportunity for under 13-year-olds to learn early on about respectful messaging practices and Internet safety.

Features For Parental Caution

  • Free app, no in-app ads or purchases
  • Apple rating 4+ [1]
  • Google rating 3+[2]
  • Designed for 6-12 year olds
  • Send text, pictures and video
  • Enables one-on-one and group video calls
  • Contacts must be parent-approved, and are controlled through the supervising adult’s Facebook account
  • The under 13 user can block contacts and flag inappropriate content, which will be reported to the adult supervisor

What Parents Should Know About The Messenger Kids App

The Messenger Kids app is an offshoot from Facebook Messenger. The app is targeted at children under the age of 13 and allows them to send texts, pictures and videos. The child’s messaging account must be linked to an adult’s Facebook account, allowing the adult to approve all contacts. As with other social messaging apps, the service represents some opportunity for misuse and potential cyberbullying. However, it is imperative that children learn to navigate the digital world safely. This app offers a controlled environment for kids to learn in.

How The Messenger Kids App Works

Messenger Kids is a Facebook-affiliated messenger app, which is free to download. The app allows the sharing of messages, pictures and videos. Kids can add stickers, Emojis and other decorations to the pictures and videos they take. Children can only connect with contacts that have been approved by a parent, which, if managed correctly, can foster a safe space for children to learn digital literacy skills. A useful feature is that messages cannot be hidden and won’t disappear. This means that unlike platforms such as Snapchat, Messenger Kids allows parents the opportunity to monitor content being sent and received. The privacy policy for Messenger Kids indicates that all data sent through the app will be stored. This is true of the traditional version of Facebook Messenger as well, though you should decide if you are comfortable with this feature when the collected data pertains to your child.

Parental Recommendations

Social messaging apps provide children with an opportunity to maintain relationships with family and friends, and build valuable digital skills. It is important to prepare children for the digitally-linked world ahead and teach online literacy and netiquette. However, parents must consider at what age they feel comfortable exposing their children to social media messaging. As noted by Common Sense Media, ‘The bigger question for parents is how early we want our kids to start using messengers, kid-safe or not’ [3].

Children aged under 13 may already be using messaging services; many kids are permitted supervised access to the phones, tablets and laptops. Plus, some children circumvent Facebook’s age restrictions and create accounts without permission. Messenger Kids offers a controlled environment for kids to learn new skills in. The level of monitoring adds a layer of protection, though there can be no guarantee that the content children choose to share will be age appropriate, so it is up to parents to stay involved

Get Involved

Though Messenger Kids affords parents a substantial amount of control over what their children are doing on the app, the safest way to allow your children to grow and learn online is to keep an open relationship and monitor their behaviours without breaking their trust. It’s important to discuss with your children potential online risks and let them know why it is important for you to be able to see the content. This will also allow parent to monitor potential issues as they arise and address them with their children. It is valuable to discuss with your kids why you approved certain contacts, how to interact safely and kindly online and when it might be important to limit use of the app.

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References

  1. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/messenger-kids/id1285713171?mt=8
  2. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.facebook.talk
  3. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/app-reviews/messenger-kids
  4. http://theconversation.com/facebooks-new-messenger-kids-app-could-be-good-for-digital-literacy-88857

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