Let's face it: as much as we try to limit our kids' use of social media, they're still going to want it! And when it comes to staying connected with friends, social media makes it so much easier. But as parents, our first concern is always how to keep our kids safe while using social media. Even with plenty of controls in place, apps like Snapchat and Instagram have so many loopholes that can compromise our kids' safety. So what's the answer? Do we hold a hard ban on all social media use for kids? Or is there a way to allow them to connect with friends and family without putting them at risk?
Facebook is hoping to address this and put our minds at ease with the new Facebook Messenger Kids app. Here's everything you need to know about letting your kids use it.
Facebook is launching a new version of its popular Messenger app, this one designed specifically for younger users ages 6 - 12. It can be used on Android and iOS devices, and the best part is, it doesn't require kids to have their own Facebook account. As you know, the minimum age for having a Facebook profile is 13. But with their new Messenger Kids app, younger users can connect with their friends and family through your Facebook's profile.
When you download the app, you can create a profile for your child, and you can even have more than one profile for siblings. You're probably wondering if setting up profiles through your own account means your kids will have access to your account, right? Well, good news! Even though the kids' version uses your Facebook, your kids won't be able to request or approve contacts on their own; everyone they connect with has to be approved and set up by you. And all of your contacts and information in your profile remains private.
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Kids will be able to use all of the regular Messenger features, and the new app also includes some really kid-friendly stuff they'll love. They can send messages, video call with friends and family, and send photos and videos. There are also a bunch of kid-friendly GIFs, stickers, filters, and drawing tools.
The best part of the Facebook Messenger Kids app is all the built-in parent and safety controls. When it comes to adding contacts, you can only add contacts that are on your own Facebook friends list. Or, you can search the Friends of Your Kids section, and add friends that way (this requires parental approval from both you and the other parent). But you don't have to be friends with the parents in order for your kids to connect! Parents can also approve and block contacts, giving them control over who their kids are connected with.
In terms of safety and use, there are some really cool features. Messenger Kids has sleep mode, which allows parents to set a timer for the app to shut down (say, during dinner or screen-free time). Your kid can't use it to send or receive messages, and sleep mode also turns off notifications for that time. Also, messages sent and received don't disappear and can't be hidden (looking at you, Snapchat) so parents can review what their kids have been talking about and with whom.
Finally, the Facebook Messenger Kids app doesn't collect any data from the conversations and is completely separate from Facebook, so your child's conversations won't be used in advertising on your account. And there are no ads or in-app purchases.
Facebook Messenger Kids is for kids ages 6 - 12, and is available for download now. It really sounds like a cool option! Will you be downloading it for your own kiddos?