Facebook Messenger Kids: What Parents Need To Know
With children at home more than ever before, missing their friends and families, and video calls taking over the world, Facebook Messenger has rolled out a version designed especially for kids. The free app, recently released in Australia, allows kids to video call and message their friends on a dedicated platform created with young users - and their safety - in mind.
Is It Safe?
Apparently, Facebook has gone to great lengths to ensure our kids are secure, consulting with online safety and child development experts during development, and using remote parental supervision to manage the app.
Kids don’t need a Facebook account (the minimum age for that is 13) so parents use their own accounts to set up and monitor their usage. Plus there aren’t any in-app purchases or ads, and Facebook has declared it will not be collecting data from the app.
How Is It Different?
Aimed at 6 to 12-year-olds, Messenger Kids has some essential variations compared to its grown-up predecessor, to make it safe for its target market - the critical one being that it is controlled by parents. Via the Parent Dashboard - a control centre that allows you to set up, review and manage your kids’ contacts and monitor friending activity - parents can monitor all their children's conversations and connections, so you are in control of who your kids can talk to, and children can also block and report unwanted contacts, which will notify parents. As a parent, you can choose how friending work by letting your child choose their contacts or restricting it so only you can choose.
You can also view recent images and videos from your child's chats and access a 30-day activity log of who they are chatting with, including any multimedia that has been shared.
Sleep mode is another innovation that helps you manage when and for how long your child can use the app. It is suggested that up to an hour a day is healthy, and even beneficial for children, as it fosters social connection during isolation.
For added security, there are also codes that you and your child can share with friends so they can request permission to be a contact. Friends who enter your child's four-letter code, and their parents, will see your child's name, their photo and who manages their account.
What's In It For The Kids?
While it's imperative that parents retain control in this cyber universe, it is the perfect environment to start family conversations around online safety and build confidence and trust in the way children navigate it. Parents might even learn a thing or two about social media, and bond with their savvy kids through shared communication.
Most importantly, kids are totally in charge of the fun! They can stay in touch with friends and family with cool, user-friendly features like filters, stickers, GIFs, emojis, drawing tools and sound effects.
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