It’s a cruel world out there, and children have a way of finding themselves in situations that they probably shouldn’t be anywhere near. Apps like Snapchat and Instagram have become hotbeds for bullying and harassment. Facebook Messenger, too, isn’t exactly the kindest place for young people. You never know who a child is talking to, and you never know what they’re sending. But there’s now a solution for parents to take advantage of, at least from Facebook.
Thousands of parents, associations, and experts were brought in for discussions on how to make messaging safe for children. The product born out of many meetings is Messenger Kids. It allows children to easily communicate with friends and family while parents maintain control of exactly who’s in conversations.
On the surface, Messenger Kids behaves just like the regular Messenger app. It even looks very similar. But changes have been made to keep children safe. Parents set up accounts, and only they can approve the contacts able to send and receive messages with. When a child launches the app on their phone or tablet, Messenger Kids shows a home screen with all of their approved contacts and whether or not they’re online.
Video calling is included, and there’s the option to add filters, emoji, and sound effects. Because, well, those are apparently things children really like.
Conversations are the same as within any other messaging app. Facebook just does its part to clean up the experience. Messenger Kids features “a library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools” for expressing their personalities. This means a child won’t stumble upon mature content even accidentally.
Getting started with Messenger Kids is straightforward. Parents get the app on their device, login, authenticate their child’s device using their own Facebook username and password, and finish by creating a profile for their child. Children add contacts themselves or receive requests, but ultimately it’s a parent’s decision to make. Any parent still on the fence should understand that Messenger Kids is compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) of 2000. That law protects personal information of children under 13.
The app is live on Apple’s App Store in the United States for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Facebook says Messenger Kids will make its way to Google Play and the Amazon App Store for Android devices in the coming months. There’s no word on when, if ever, it’ll expand to additional countries.