Do your kids love playing with Snapchat filters? Do they use FaceTime to chat with grandma and grandpa?
Messaging apps can be a great communication tool for families, but when they’re primarily designed for adults - it can be a little tricky deciding where to draw the line. Enter Messenger Kids.
Facebook rolled out Messenger Kids in December 2017. It’s a video and chat app designed specifically for kids. There are no ads, and parents are in control.
“I like to think of it a little bit the way parents think of a playdate: When your kids are between the ages of 7 and 11, you really determine who it is that they’re having a playdate with,” explained Antigone Davis, Facebook’s Global Safety Director. “You know the parents, and you make that decision for them.”
You authenticate your child’s device using YOUR Facebook account, but don’t worry - that doesn’t create a Facebook account for them or give them access to your Facebook account. Messenger Kids addresses three big concerns parents have when it comes to kids and technology:
- First, parents control who their kids can talk to. Not only does that help protect against online predators, but also cyberbullying.
“The parent is able to block a particular individual or to remove them as a contact if they want to,” Davis explained. “With regard to bullying more generally online, we've done a number of things: First of all, we have a bullying prevention help inside of our safety center where parents can get advice on how to talk to their child. If the child is being bullied or if perhaps they've been told that their child is a bully.”
- Second, the app makes sure kids only see age-appropriate content.
“All of the gifs and masks -- which a lot of them are super fun -- but they are reviewed by individuals and age-appropriate, and these individuals have expertise in things like child development,” Davis said.
- Finally, if you worry that your child is getting too much screen time or is staying up too late, the app comes with bedtime controls. But modeling good behavior can be just as important as the controls themselves.
“When my daughter first got her phone, we could see the glow from her bedroom at night,” Davis recalled. “And we really wanted her to have downtime before bed. And so we made a rule: about an hour before bedtime, you have to put your phone down. And the first thing she said to me was, ‘Well, you don't!’ (laughs) so I had to put my phone down as well to really model healthy habits.”
Messenger Kids is available for Fire tablets, Apple devices, and on the Google Play Store.