Free New Video Messaging App for Kids is Safe and Fun
The folks over at WeAreTeachers asked me to check out this new offering from Facebook. As a fan of Facetime, I was intrigued from the get go, since Messenger Kids offers a lot of features to help ensure safe interactions for young children, while still making it easy and fun for kids to connect with other kids and adults they know. And unlike Facetime, Messenger Kids works on both Apple and Android platforms.
I should clarify that Messenger Kids is NOT in educational app, but as a new offering from a big industry player like Facebook, I thought it was worth having a look at and making educators and parents aware of. (Also, to be perfectly frank, with all of the privacy and content issues Facebook has experienced in the last few years, I was curious to see what this new offering was about.)
I should also add that Messenger Kids is not a social media app either – it is a messaging tool purposely constrained to defined, approved contacts, to help ensure safety.
Face to Face Communication is More Effective (and Fun)
One thing I feel very strongly about it when it comes to communicating in today's digital world is the need to be visual. What I mean by that is that when we communicate using only text or voice, we miss the most important part of communication – the many clues and contexts we pick up when we can see each other while we talk.
While there is plenty of debate as to just what percentage of communication is visual, experts generally agree that is a very significant portion. This even more important when connecting kids to each other or adults in their lives. I feel that kids can learn more and have a better experience when connecting visually, as compared to just via audio.
What is Messenger Kids?
Messenger Kids is a free video calling and messaging app designed to let kids to connect with close friends and family from their tablet or smartphone. Kids can only connect with contacts that their parents have approved, providing for a controlled, safe environment. There are interactive masks, sound effects, and reactions to add a fun element to messaging sessions.
Another nice functional benefit of Messenger Kids is that approved contacts can video chat and message with their kids through Facebook if they wish, so no additional app download is needed (of course, they can also download Messenger Kids and use that if they wish.)
Safety Features That Give More Control to Parents and Protect Kids from Inappropriate Content
In Messenger Kids, parents must approve all contacts, and they can report or block contacts if necessary. This is fundamental to making the app a safer, more controlled environment. Parents can manage screen time by setting “off times” for the app. And all of the digital stickers, GIFs, and filters in the app are kid-appropriate.
Additionally, Messenger Kids content cannot be hidden and never disappears.
Messenger Kids is Fun and Entertaining for Kids
Children can safely stay in touch with their friends, classmates, and family. With the feature-filled camera, they can decorate photos and create fun videos, using kid-appropriate masks, stickers, and more to be creative and express themselves. With the all of the safety measures in place, parents can relax while kids laugh, explore, and have fun.
Getting Started with Messenger Kids
Parents can get their child started with safe messaging & video chat in four steps.
- Download the Messenger Kids app to your child’s Wi-Fi enabled phone or tablet.
- Authenticate your child’s device using your Facebook login.This will not create a Facebook account for your child.
- Create an account for your child by adding their name. Then the phone or tablet can be handed over to your kid so they can start safely chatting with family and friends you approve.
- Parental controls are available in the Parent Portal in your main Facebook app.Through the Parent Portal you can monitor who your kids chat and text with by adding and approving contacts and setting on and off times through our Sleep Mode feature.
As much as I have my concerns about Facebook, I have to commend the company of doing a great job with the Messenger Kids app and paying close attention to the importance of safe, appropriate communications. I would feel comfortable allowing my kids to use this app to connect with friends and family.