We’re all well aware of the controversy on how much screen time, if any, is healthy for kids, so I’m not here to debate the subject but rather inform you of a new side product that Facebook has launched. Have your kids ever used your messenger app to talk to their grandparents, aunts, or uncles, but gotten distracted by messages from your friends popping up that you’d prefer they didn’t have access to? Now, we all know children under the age of 13 are prohibited from creating their own Facebook account, so Messenger Kids is an attempt to satisfy this need for communication in the younger age group, while keeping safety and privacy at the forefront.
Messenger Kids is a standalone app that parents can install on their kids’ tablet or Smartphone, but the app is connected to the parents Facebook account. Kids do not have their own accounts, it acts more as an extension of the parent’s. The kid version has simple, kid-friendly features with basic functions like text and video chat with filters and stickers to decorate photos, however, they do not have the option to add or remove contacts. Only the parent can control who is in the kids contact list and parents get notifications on what the child is doing.
So, why would we want to encourage our children at such a young age to be subjected to the world of texting? It’s not so much that you may want to encourage more screen time, as I said, we are all aware of the studies that are for and against this, but instead, consider situations where this could be a very useful tool. I can say from personal experience, that living far away from family presents a challenge when you start a family of your own and want to keep your kids connected to everyone. If this was available several years ago, it would have made communication between my daughter and her grandparents more efficient and fun! If a parent travels a lot, they can still stay in touch throughout the day instead of waiting for a specific phone call time. With Messenger Kids they can send decorated photos to mom or dad quick to let them know they’re thinking of them or to ask quick questions that don’t merit a phone call. Parents can retain a piece of mind knowing that they are connected with their kids without the risk of contacting and communicating with strangers.
We also can’t deny the fact that this is the age we live in. Social Media is a huge part of our society and for current and upcoming generations, it has become the primary means of communication for the majority of kids. If we consider apps like Messenger Kids as an introductory tool to teach them appropriate use while we, as parents, can still have full control, then maybe we can instill appropriate online behavior right out the door instead of waiting until they’re older and create a full account on their own.