Mixed Reactions After Facebook Releases Kid Version of Its Messenger App

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Facebook has recently launched Messenger Kids, an app aimed at children between the ages of 9 and 11 years old. Much like the regular Facebook Messenger, the app allows children to message and video chat with each other; however, both parents need to approve the contact beforehand.

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Unsurprisingly, the app has caused quite a stir and many parents are skeptical about it.

On December 4th, Loren Cheng, Product Management Director at Facebook released a statement explaining exactly what the app is about. “Today, in the US, we’re rolling out a preview of Messenger Kids, a new app that makes it easier for kids to safely video chat and message with family and friends when they can’t be together in person.”

Cheng explained that the company did a lot research with parents, parenting experts, and the National PTA and concluded that “we found that there’s a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want.”

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It appears that the only difference between Messenger Kids and Facebook Messenger in general, is that it is controlled by parents. Cheng described it as “a standalone app that lives on kids’ tablets or smartphones but can be controlled from a parent’s Facebook account.” Children get to experience the world of video chat while parents can rest easy in the knowledge that their children are only going to be speaking to people they have preapproved.

The added safety for parents to note is that their children are not setting up their own profiles on Facebook, which should make trolling and stranger danger less of an issue. Another slight difference in the two apps, is that unlike Facebook Messenger for adults, Messenger Kids is an “add free experience” so their information won’t be used for advertising or selling.

Some features available

It seems like Messenger meets Snapchat with some of the new features available to children. According to messengerkids.com the app is more fun for children with features including “Kid-appropriate masks, frames, stickers and GIFs spark conversation and laughter. With the feature-filled camera, kids can create fun videos and decorate photos to share moments with loved ones.”

It’s great to see that Facebook has gone to a lot of trouble to ensure children’s safety when using the product. However, not all parents are in agreement that the app is entirely child friendly. One parent reviewed the app and only gave it a one star rating stating that it is “Way too easy for children to sign up without parents’ knowledge. They 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 hook up with unsuspecting kids. This app needs to be eliminated.”

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Another concerned commenter called the app an “awful idea” saying “The creation and acceptance of this application is deeply worrying. Kids are already over exposed to social media and being online 24/7 – this will only make things worse.” Subsequently there are many parents who are more than happy with the service and would recommend it.

That decision is ultimately up to you so if you would like to test out this new service, the Messenger Kids preview is available on the App Store for iPad, iPod touch and the iPhone, but it is currently only available in the US.


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