Facebook recently released a spin-off version of their Messenger app, designed specifically for children under the age of 13. Until now, Facebook has required users to be 13+ to create an account. Although Messenger Kids allows tweens into the world of Facebook Messenger, the program comes with built-in parental controls. Parents create the account and add new contacts for their children. After parents create their child’s account, Messenger Kids will instruct them to hand the device to their child so he/she can complete the setup. The child will be asked to select an app color and take a profile pic. Children are identified by first name only and they can’t delete any messages – only parents have that ability. This feature gives parents a window into any potential cyberbullying issue or other troubling concern, such as protecting personal information or preventing the spread of inappropriate content.  Parents will need to look at the child’s device in order to see messages; they won’t automatically receive copies or have access within their own accounts. If a child wants to chat with a friend from school, his/her parent would need to be Facebook friends with the parent of the other child. Both parents would then need to agree to the connection request. Parents won’t need to download a separate app, they can communicate with Messenger Kids users through their existing FB Messenger accounts.

Within a message, children can send “kid-appropriate” gifs, stickers, emojis and live filters. They can also access all photos and videos on the device they are using. Live video chats with approved contacts are also an option.

There seems to be some mixed messaging about whether or not Facebook is collecting data and what it will be used for – Common Sense Media cautions about Messenger Kids privacy policy. As always – we suggest reading any app’s privacy policy before downloading.

Link to Facebook Messenger Kids privacy policy

The release of the new Messenger Kids app has sparked many conversations about the age appropriateness of young children using mobile phones and social media. We always value app reviews and safety tips by Thomas Dodson of Above the Fray. Thomas and his team have presented their message during parent nights at several of our EGUSD high schools.

The topic of age appropriateness would make for a great debate and/or essay assignment. We would love to showcase your students thoughts and actions on this topic by featuring them as a guest blogger.

Below are a few articles – pros and cons –  to start classroom conversations:

New Facebook App for Children Ignites Debate Among Families – The New York Times

Facebook launches Messenger Kids app – but parents vet chat contacts – The Guardian

Facebook’s New Messenger App For Kids Is Here… Are You Ready? – Thomas Dodson, Above the Fray