Facebook wants your kids on Messenger, too. The world’s biggest social network, with over 2 billion users, wants to make sure that everyone’s on board – including the youngest members of your family.
To join Facebook, users have to be over 13 years old. However, the social network announced yesterday that its new app, Messenger Kids, will be open to users of ever younger age. The new app is available for preview in the US App Store for now, with plans to expand onto the Google Play and the Amazon App stores in the coming months.
Messenger kids is a standalone app that lives on kids’ tablets or smartphones but can be controlled from a parent’s Facebook account. Children are increasingly allowed to use the family computers and tablets, and many parents are concerned about the use of devices and exposure to dangers from unsupervised internet browsing.
On Messenger Kids, all accounts are set up by parents. Children can start one-on-one contacts with parent-approved contacts. They can send images, videos, and texts, to any of their aforementioned contacts. Adult users and relatives can receive messages through the regular Messenger app. Masks, emojis, gifs, stickers, and sound effects, are available too – just like on the grownup version of Messenger – only sanitised, and carefully preselected by a panel of experts. Needless to say, children using Messenger Kids won’t have to own a telephone number to operate the app.
To get started with Messenger Kids, parents can download the app and authenticate using their own Facebook account. Next step is to create a Messenger Kids Account and vet and approve the contacts their child can be in touch with.
Personally, I can see both the good and the bad sides of this move. First of all, it’s great that parents will be able to chaperone all their children’s conversations and shape a protective and safe environment. This is particularly important, as children make their first steps into the online world. But then again, getting children hooked on the screens is not something I’m happy to see.
For those concerned with privacy and advertising to younger audiences, Facebook states that “there are no ads in Messenger Kids and your child’s information isn’t used for ads. It is free to download and there are no in-app purchases. Messenger Kids is also designed to be compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA).”