Facebook just released Messenger Kids, a video and messaging app designed to let kids connect with friends and family. What makes this messenger app kid-friendly is that children can only connect with parent-approved friends, which helps create an environment free of strangers. So is it all good news? Not necessarily. Here’s the good, bad and not-so-clear news about the new chat app.
- It’s aimed at kids 6-12.
- Kids don’t need a Facebook account to have a Messenger Kids account. Parents do.
- Messenger Kids accounts require your child’s first and last name.
- It’s free to use.
- It’s ad-free.
- It has kid-friendly features, like filters and emojis.
- Kids can’t delete their own messages, only parents can.
The big questions: Will Facebook Messenger Kids be a gateway drug towards future social media addiction? Is that first and last name truly necessary? Why not just a child’s nickname? Keeping in mind Facebook’s famously fickle privacy policies, will Messenger Kids information eventually get linked to kids’ future Facebook accounts, the better to target them with ads?
You can read Facebook’s Global Head of Safety’s Antigone Davis’ take on the matter here, which provides a peek into the amount of time and resources that were devoted to making the app. All told, Messenger Kids took 18 months and involved “leading child development experts, educators and parents as we prepared to build our first product for kids. We created an advisory board of experts.”
The kid-centric feature contrasts another new Facebook feature, Watch, which is essentially its answer to YouTube. Within the platform, Facebook users can search and view videos, some of which include Facebook proprietary content such as a Kerry Washginton-produced drama series Five Points. According to Facebook, “Watch is personalized to help you discover new shows, organized around what your friends and communities are watching.” Furthermore, when you’re watching a show, “you can see comments and connect with friends and other viewers while watching, or participate in a dedicated Facebook Group for the show.”
In many ways, however, Watch is at the other end of the parental-control spectrum in that there are no parental controls. In test accounts, users as young as 13 were served videos that included extremely mature content such as a sexually explicit show called Madge the Vag. At this point, Facebook does not offer any filtering features such as YouTube Restricted Mode.