As many parents have recently seen in the news, Facebook has launched Messenger for Kids. A good way to give parents greater parental controls and additional safety measures for kids who we know are online? Or a platform that will convince kids to turn to Facebook when they reach 13 years of age?
What is Facebook Messenger for Kids?
Messenger Kids is a simplified version of Facebook Messenger that puts parents in charge.
For example, if two kids want to talk on Messenger Kids that friendship has to be approved by a parent for each child. Think of it like setting up a virtual play date. Once each parent has approved, the kids can chat to each other via text and video chat as well as send pictures.
Approved adults, such as family members, can also contact kids through the app, though their messages will go through the normal Facebook Messenger.
For now, the app is only available in the US on Apple iOS but Facebook is looking to launch it on Android in the foreseeable future too.
What data will Messenger Kids collect about my child?
There’s no doubt that the app will have to collect some data, including:
- The child’s name
- The content of the messages
- Usage reports for how the app is used.
Facebook will also share this information with third parties, which must have data protection policies that comply with Coppa, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in the US.
The initial reaction to Facebook Messenger for Kids
James Steyer, Common Sense Media’s chief executive said, “A messenger app for kids under 13 that only parents can sign them up for sounds like a nice idea on its face. But without clear policies about data collection, what happens to the content children post, and plans for the future, it is impossible to fully trust the platform.
“We appreciate that for now, the product is ad-free and appears designed to put parents in control. But why should parents simply trust that Facebook is acting in the best interest of kids?”
The pros of Facebook Messenger for Kids
Whether or not Facebook is acting in its own interests, we must acknowledge that they are working to provide parents with more control. After all, many of these kids are already on Facebook despite being under the 13 year age limit.
With Facebook Messenger for Kids, parents have more control and can be more involved while still allowing kids to converse using social media.
Since it’s thought that over 20 million under-13-year-olds are already using social media, it makes sense to offer a platform that helps keep them safe and monitored, right?
The aspects of Facebook Messenger for Kids parents aren’t so sure about
Facebook Messenger for Kids comes with a library of kid-appropriate GIFs, filters, stickers and “likes”. As we all know, the like mechanism on Facebook gives our brains a small dopamine hit.
The question people like Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president is asking is, do we want to expose kids under 13 to this concept of online peer validation. If so, what will it do to their brains in the future?
Given the vulnerability of these users, Facebook knows it will be watched extremely closely. But even with the best intentions and tight controls, harmful online content is still a problem. We just have to look at the videos that found their way onto YouTube Kids to know that making a child-safe space isn’t 100% foolproof.
For now, that’s all we know about Facebook’s new Messenger for Kids app. We’ll keep you updated with any new information as we hear it. For now, we say treat Messenger for Kids as you would any other social media platform – with caution.
RELATED: Want to know more about protecting your kids online?
Do you have any concerns about the new Facebook Messenger for Kids? Get in touch with us in the comments below.