There’s always the concern that some kids find themselves on social media without parent authorisation which means the general effort to keep them away from gadgets and social media has generally failed too. Somehow they can use features like FaceTime on their devices that don’t usually connect to telephone networks. So there’s the need to allow them legally connect with friends with the supervision of parents and while many of these apps don’t offer parents that opportunity, Facebook says it has come up with a solution and that solution is Messenger Kids, a standalone Messenger app for kids with parental control.
Now this doesn’t also mean you have to sign your kid up on Facebook because the app relies on the parent’s Facebook account. According to a post by Loren Cheng who is the Product Management Director of Messenger Kids, “To give kids and parents a fun, safer solution, we built Messenger Kids, a standalone app that lives on kids’ tablets or smartphones but can be controlled from a parent’s Facebook account. Whether it’s using video chat to talk to grandparents, staying in touch with cousins who live far away, or sending mom a decorated photo while she’s working late to say hi, Messenger Kids opens up a new world of online communication to families. This preview is available on the App Store for iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone.
The app practically takes care of all the basic concerns like will my kid(s) be able to see some of my ads? No the app is ads free which means there’s a complete firewall between your activities and that of your kids. They just need your account to sign up and that’s it.
The other concern is who they can chat with and as you know, anyone can sign up for Messenger without having a Facebook account. So to prevent them from chatting with strangers, the parent is also in charge of adding up contacts for them which means you can easily add up a friend you know for them to chat with. This app allows them to chat with family members who are away without them always having to use parents’ devices.
To add friends of your kids though, you would have to be friends of the parent of the other kids on Facebook and then you will see the kid’s name under their parents which then allows you add them for your own kids in Messenger Kids. Put simply, if your daughter Kate wants to chat with her friend Mike, you would have to be friends with Mike’s parents on Facebook and there you will Mike’s name if he is already signed up by his parents. From there you can add Mike for Kate and that’s how it goes.
As with most parental control options, you can remove and add contacts at any time, it also comes with the usual block and report which allows you to block a contact if you don’t want to remove them totally.
Parents get notifications of virtually kid activities. To ensure safety for children, Facebook has a dedicated team to this which means they don’t want it to be part of the regular Messenger. The app is loaded with child-friendly GIFs and emojis from where they can choose when chatting with friends.
Facebook worked with experts like National PTA, the Centre of Media and Child Health, the American Association of Pediatrics to develop this app.
This app is currently available only in the United States but I’ll assume it will gradually roll out in other countries with time. It would just mean that they have to work with local child development experts to roll them out in line with laws of other countries.
Here’s how to get started according to Facebook
- Download: First, download the Messenger Kids app on your child’s iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone from the App Store.
- Authenticate: Then, authenticate your child’s device using your own Facebook username and password. This will not create a Facebook account for your child or give them access to your Facebook account.
- Create an account: Finish the setup process by creating an account for your child, where all you’ll need to do is provide their name. Then the device can be handed over to the child so they can start chatting with the family and friends you approve.
- Add contacts: To add people to your child’s approved contact list, go to the Messenger Kids parental controls panel in your main Facebook app. To get there, click on “More” on the bottom right corner in your main Facebook app, and click “Messenger Kids” in the Explore section.