Available to download from the Apple App and Google Play Stores, it is aimed at children from the age of 6 to 12, and includes features aimed at helping kids connect with their friends and family.
Facebook says it has worked closely with Youth Advisors (https://bit.ly/2MJAm19), made up of experts in online safety, child development and media. It also consulted with child safety advocates and educators across Africa “to ensure that its providing a service that balances parental control with features that help kids learn how to connect responsibly online”.
Facebook said in an announcement: “Messenger Kids is made for Kids but controlled by parents, the app is full of features for kids to connect with the people they love. Once their account is set up by a parent, kids can start a one-on-one or group video chat. The home screen shows them at a glance who they are connected to, and when those contacts are online.”
Facebook provided the following information on the features available in the app,:
- Playful masks, emojis and sound effects bring conversations to life.
- In addition to video chat, kids can send photos, videos or text messages to their parent-approved friends and adult relatives, who will receive the messages via their regular Messenger app.
- A library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools to let them decorate content and express their personalities.
“We know that parents are turning to technology more than ever to help their kids connect with friends and family online,” says Kojo Boakye, Facebook public policy director for Africa. “With privacy, security and parental control at the heart of the app, Messenger Kids provides a safe, fun space, controlled by parents to do exactly that.”
Safety expert Evelyn Kasina, a family IT consultant at Eveminet, said: “It is our responsibility to ensure online safety for our children. The greatest sign of success is when our children display responsible independence during their online interaction. The launch of Facebook Messenger Kids is an amazing stride toward child online safety because our young children will enjoy and participate on social media on child developed platforms that have safety parameters to keep them safe.”
Parents can control and monitor their child’s activity through a Parent Dashboard. According to Facebook, this enables them to:
- Monitor recent contacts, chat history, and reported and blocked contacts: including who your child is chatting with, whether they are video chatting or sending messages and how frequently those conversations happened over the past 30 days. You’ll also see a list of the contacts your child has blocked and/or unblocked, if they have reported any messages as well as any contacts they’ve reported and the reason for their action. Parents will continue to be notified via Messenger if their child blocks or reports someone.
- See a log of images and videos in chats: See the most recent photos and videos your child has sent and received in their inbox. If you believe an image or video is not appropriate for your child, you can remove it from your child’s message thread and report it.
- Enable Supervised Friending: This feature will enable parents to choose to allow their kids to also accept, reject, add or remove contacts, while maintaining the ability to override any new contact approvals from the Parent Dashboard. When a kid takes a friending action, parents will be notified through Messenger and can override any new connections made by going to the Parent Dashboard, where they will also be able to see a log of recent activities.
- Remote Device Logout: See all devices where your child is logged in to Messenger Kids and log out of the app on any device through the Parent Dashboard
- Download your child’s information: Request a copy of your child’s Messenger Kids information, similar to how you can download your own information within the Facebook app. The download will include a list of your child’s contacts as well as the messages, images and videos they have sent and received. Your child will be notified through the Messenger Kids app when you request this information.
Facebook provided the following additional information on Messenger Kids
- There are no ads in Messenger Kids and your child’s information isn’t used for ads.
- It is free to download and there are no in-app purchases.
- Messenger Kids is also designed to be compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA).
- Facebook continues to work with parents, safety and security experts to improve Messenger Kids and have also announced new ways to help parents connect kids with their friends.
- For more specific information about the app, visit MessengerKids.com.