Last week, Facebook released Messenger Kids, a version of its popular Messenger app designed specifically for kids under 13. These younger kids are technically not allowed to create full Facebook profiles, so Facebook developed Messenger Kids as a standalone app with some important parental control and safety features.
Still, while Facebook seems to have put a lot of effort into safety, some parents may feel uncomfortable with allowing their children to use this app. To help you make the best decision for your family, read on to learn what Messenger Kids does well, as well as what concerns it might still raise for some parents.
What Messenger Kids Does
Messenger Kids is like the regular Facebook Messenger app in that it allows both text and video chat. However, Facebook aims to make the platform safe for kids in these important ways:
Giving parents complete control over their kids’ Messenger contacts: Facebook Messenger Kids accounts must be linked to an adult’s Facebook account. From this account parents have complete control over who their kids can communicate with. This means that, based on a parent’s preferences, they could make sure that Messenger Kids could only be used to communicate with, say, a grandparent. Or, if they felt comfortable giving their child the ability to communicate with a friend, they could, if that friend’s parent approved as well.
Content filtering: Messenger Kids includes a content filter designed to prevent kids from sharing sexually explicit or violent content. Furthermore, the platform also gives kids the ability to report any explicit material that does make it through the filter.
Creating a kid-friendly space: Messenger Kids is completely ad-free. Furthermore, the emoji, GIFs, and other art elements are limited and all designed with kids in mind.
What Messenger Kids Doesn’t Do
The safety features listed above are good ones. At the very least, they allow diligent parents to decide exactly who they are comfortable letting interact with their kids. Still, this doesn’t mean that Messenger Kids is without limitations. Parents should bear these in mind as well:
Monitoring: Messenger Kids does not include any kind of monitoring. In other words, parents can’t peek in on their kids’ conversations from an external device. However, messages sent in Messenger Kids do not disappear like they do in Snapchat, and it isn’t possible for kids to hide their messages. So, concerned parents can review the contents of kids’ communication by opening the app on the phone that the child uses.
Bulletproof Filtering: As some have already reported, Messenger Kids’ content filter has its limitations; it will not catch everything you don’t want your child to see. To some extent, this is to be expected; no content filter is perfect. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that the content filter can’t be completely relied upon.
Is Messenger Kids Right for Your Family?
From a purely technical perspective, with the possible exception of its limited monitoring capabilities, Facebook seems to have created a relatively safe platform for kids – provided that parents take a proactive and diligent approach to managing their kids’ accounts.
Still, this doesn’t mean that Messenger Kids is right for every family, or for every kid. We encourage parents to think through their own internet safety priorities, and to make decisions that make sense for their parenting styles.
So, if you have questions or would like help thinking through whether or how to implement Messenger Kids, contact us today to schedule a family internet safety consultation!