Facebook has launched a standalone app, called Messenger Kids, which is designed specifically for users aged 6 to 12 and as you can imagine, the Twitterverse is in an uproar about it.

Have you heard the news? Facebook has launched a standalone app, called Messenger Kids, which is designed specifically for users aged 6 to 12 and as you can imagine, the Twitterverse is in an uproar about it.

Many parents are concerned over the safety of the app and its features, but also, they are most concerned about introducing their children to the world of social media at such a young age. Whatever happened to encouraging our kids to play outside?

We’re seeing a definitive trend of kids making costly mistakes online, mainly because they’re not prepared or emotionally mature enough to handle that kind of unfettered access to the internet. While it’s unrealistic to think that kids today can be successful without being digital, parenting and technology experts have cautioned against handing over a smartphone to a child without teaching them the appropriate etiquette.

While it’s unrealistic to think that kids today can be successful without being digital, parenting and technology experts have cautioned against handing over a smartphone to a child without teaching them the appropriate etiquette.

What Messenger Kids is All About

Let’s talk about what Messenger Kids provides young users. First, it offers parents control of their contact list so only approved users can interact with your child. It also doesn’t have some of the red flags that other apps have, like advertising messages or in-app purchases.

Furthermore, location sharing is disabled and a safe search for the in-app Giphy function is automatically enabled. There is also a dedicated support team 24/7 for kids to report anything inappropriate that they may come across.

Facebook positions Messenger Kids as, “an app that makes it easier for kids to safely video chat and message with family and friends when they can’t be together in person.”

The goal of the Facebook team is to provide families a way to safely connect with one another, with some degree of parental control.

Find more info about the Messenger Kids app in our App Advisor.

 

Parent Concerns About Messenger Kids

1. Individuality of Features

As far as Messenger Kids goes, it’s not all that exciting to use. Granted, I’m an adult that’s used to the full features of both Facebook and Facebook’s adult Messenger app, but knowing how proficient (and sometimes patronizing) kids can be about tech, this one is flimsy at best.

Messenger Kids is resting on the success of filters and video chatting that kids are used to in Snapchat, Musical.ly and other popular apps to drive its younger user success.

2. Will Kids Actually Use It?

Only time will tell. It’s great to develop an app with the guidance of parenting experts, families and qualified organizations, but if kids won’t actually use the app, then what’s the benefit?

The question this app poses is: how are kids supposed to access the app? From their own cell phone or tablet? While I know that kids are getting smartphones at younger ages than I did, I find it concerning to arm a 6-year-old with their own smartphone.

Additionally, if kids are meant to access this with their own device, what’s to stop them from downloading any other apps or using the phone’s native text messaging, voice or video calling? 

3. Is Messenger Kids a Gateway to Tech Addiction?

One of the biggest concerns parents are having to this app is the question of why Facebook is ultimately creating this? Some critics are saying that it’s an easy way for Facebook to identify a demographic of younger users that typically wouldn’t have access to their tools.

By cultivating a new batch of Facebook users into the funnel, this could be a business play for future growth. Jeffery Chester, the executive director for the Center of Digital Democracy stated to Wired, “If they are weaned on Google and Facebook, you have socialized them to use your service when they become an adult.”


Issues Messenger Kids Doesn’t Address

Messenger Kids does give parents a little relief in knowing that they aren’t video chatting with perfect strangers, but to say that the app is recommended for kids as young as 6 years old is hard to swallow. Here are a few things this app doesn't address:

  • Filtering of chat content. There is a support team to moderate any reports, but no sign of keyword or image filtering within the chat.
  • Screen time regulations and recommendations. How can parents effectively monitor their child’s total screen time and online activity?
  • Visibility for parents. While parents can approve contacts, they have little visibility to the content of their child’s chats.
  • Enhanced security for their adult app. In reality, there’s not much stopping a child from signing up for a regular Facebook account, as the security is pretty lax. 

Ultimately, the decision for your child to use or not use this app is up to you. Only you know whether your child is trusted, mature and responsible enough to access their own device and use away from your supervision. 


About Jennifer Leonard

Jennifer Leonard is the Social Media Manager for Zift. She is passionate about connecting with people – in person and via social media. She spends her days writing, tweeting, pinning and using as many hashtags she possibly can. #Goals 

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