Facebook has announced the addition of a ‘Sleep Mode’ feature on Messenger Kids, giving parents more control over the times their children can use the app.
Facebook created Messenger Kids to give kids – those below 13 who theoretically can’t get a normal Facebook account – a safe “space to message and video chat with close friends and family.” When the app was launched last December, many didn’t think it was a good idea, to begin with, while others outright campaigned against it. In January, a group of health experts even petitioned Facebook to shut the app down. But Facebook isn’t showing any sign of doing that.
Instead, it’s giving parents more control of the app with parental features like a new sleep mode “that allows parents to set predetermined ‘off times’ for the app on a child’s device.” Messenger Kids already allows parents “to fully control the contact list and check in on their child’s messaging,” and that’s great, but parents also wanted a way to control the app’s accessibility. As experts have warned, and parents have realised, their children can’t control their usage, so Facebook has to step in and allow “controls that make the app inaccessible at a certain time, like during dinner, homework time or bedtime.”
It allows parents to set an “off time” during which the app will to “go to sleep,” and kids won’t be able to access it. The sleep mode can be found and be controlled from within the Parent Control center in a parent’s Facebook account. Parents can either adjust times during the day or just set it and forget it, which is handy. When the app is accessed “off time,” a message will pop up saying that it’s “in sleep mode and to come back later.”
Limiting a child’s access to the app will be challenging. If a child is used to having constant access, setting boundaries will have consequences. Either way, Facebook suggests having “a conversation with your child to make sure you have a mutual understanding of the ground rules.” Good luck with that. For more guidance and resources, on how to deal with this and other issues related to your child’s use of technology, parents can visit the Parents Portal.