Messenger Kids is a video chat and messaging app, from Facebook, for kids ages 6-12. It’s designed to give parents control, and peace of mind, over who their kids chat with. Messenger Kids provides a safer option than most of the chat apps out there. Yet families should consider how soon is too soon to let their kids use social media and to start having apps collect their personal data.
What is the Messenger Kids App?
- Messenger Kids is a video chat and messaging app
- Similar to Snapchat, users can add filters, stickers, text, and doodles to their video messages
- Parents control the contact list on Messenger Kids
- After downloading the app, someone with an existing Facebook account has to log in
- The adult’s Facebook account is then linked to the child’s Messenger Kids account
- All friend requests are sent to the parent’s Facebook account to either approve or deny
- Students can also create a code to send to friends to connect (but parents must still approve each friend)
- The app asks for a child’s name, birthday, gender, and photo (but none are required to use the app)
- They can also play games while video chatting (with one friend or with a group)
Why should parents care?
- Students don’t need a phone number to create a Messenger Kids account
- Creating a Messenger Kids account doesn’t create a traditional Facebook account for your student
- Parents manage their student’s Messenger Kids account through their personal Facebook account
- Kids cannot hide messages since they will never disappear
- Facebook says it monitors kids’ usage of the app
- The app also collects names, profile photos, gender, birthday, and data from device settings (like time zones or access to camera and photos)
- A 2020 app update gives parents new options for monitoring their kid’s use of the app including:
- a list of recent contacts, recent images and videos shared in chats
- a chat history
- a list of reported and blocked contacts
- parents can now remotely log kids out of the app on any device
Messenger Kids in the News
Facebook acknowledged [in 2019]… that a design flaw in its Messenger Kids app allowed children under the age of 13 participate in group chats with strangers and without their parents permission, essentially sidestepping one of the core security features of the app… [Facebook later said it fixed the error and made several security upgrades.]Forbes
The new Messenger Kids features will help with the oversight aspects for those parents who allow their kids to online chat… and despite Facebook’s reputation, there aren’t other chat apps offering these sort of parental controls — or the convenience of being able to add everyone in your family to a child’s chat list with ease.TechCrunch
Kids are getting a crash course on texting and social media with ‘technology on training wheels.’… Facebook’s Messenger Kids… allows kids too young to join Facebook to use their parents’ Messenger account to interact with other kids.MIT Technology Review
What parents say about Messenger Kids
Love the app for the ability to manage contacts for kids! –Parent
Way too easy for children to sign up without parents’ knowledge. Kids just have to setup a fake adult profile then give permission using this to sign up for this app. Kids are much smarter than you give them credit for. That also means predators can do the same process to try to contact unsuspecting kids. –Parent
Source: iTunes App Store
What can parents do?
- Decide how young is too young for your student to start using social media
- Set screen time guidelines and discuss them with your children before giving them access to a device or social media account
- Ensure that your children know who they should and should not be talking to online, even if they’re using apps that require parents to approve their contacts
- Talk with your students about what types of messages and pictures are OK to send
- Remind your student that every social post should be positive since it can be screenshot and shared
- Use the tools on the app and regularly monitor what your kids are chatting about to prevent online bullying and other inappropriate behaviors
- Check out the Smart Social VIP (Very Informed Parents) Membership for videos you can watch WITH your kids so they will learn how to be safe and smart online
Some parents view Messenger Kids as an app that kids can use first before they dive into bigger apps like Instagram or Snapchat. Your family should decide if this app is a good fit. If it is, Smart Social highly recommends monitoring your kid’s use of the app and talking with them about good digital citizenship.