Messenger Kids (powered by Facebook) has just launched here in Australia. With the extra time on our hands during home isolation and limited social connections, this App is quickly gaining momentum as a ‘safe’ way to keep kids connected. Messenger Kids is a free video calling and messaging app for smartphones and tablets linked to a Parent’s Facebook account. This means parents have full control and visibility over which friends and family they can connect and chat with. The App is extremely ‘child friendly’ with gamification embedded and fun-filled features like filters and stickers, commonly available across many social networking applications today. So, what do we think about Facebook’s latest move to include a platform for children aged between 6 – 12?
We like…
  • Children do not need their own email account, relying on a parent or adult to set up a profile connected to their Facebook account.
  • Parents can manage the contact list based on either Facebook user profiles or Messenger Kids profiles.
  • There are no ads or in-app purchases.
  • You can set ‘sleep’ mode whereby the app cannot be accessed.
  • Privacy information and choice within the app is promoted to the child in language accessible to their age.
We worry about some of the unnecessary data collected…
  • When creating a profile you (and your child) are asked to include a photo and the child’s full name. This goes against everything we try to teach young people.
  • You are asked to include your child’s birthday. This information is not mandatory, however when creating the account the ‘Skip’ button is hard to find.
  • Facebook state they will collect and store information including content posted, how they interact when using the app, times they access the platform and even the device they use.
Your child will be encouraged to return daily…
  • The App is riddled with gamification including awarding achievement badges for engaging with all elements of the app including message functionality and game play.
  • The app will regularly request that you turn ‘Notifications On’. If not turned on your child will be asked to activate notifications every time they access the App. When notifications are turn ‘on’ for any app users will be regularly encouraged to return.

Consider this…
  • People you may know can see your child’s name and photo when they download the Messenger Kids app.
  • Whilst you will have visibility to all conversations, this also means the other parents or adults can see and download messages that your child sends such as texts, photos, videos and voice recordings. This is stored on Facebook and can be downloaded by either parent/adult at any time.
  • Kids cannot delete messages that they send or receive, but a parent can.
  • Facebook will save information about how and when a child uses the app, including the type of device that they use.
  • A Messenger Kids profile can have a unique code eg ‘CATS-COIN-WAIT-BASE’. Online groomers on other platforms and online games may ask your child for these codes.
Our advice…
  • Play with the app yourself and explore all features before determining if this app is appropriate for your child or before they use this app independently.
  • Make use of the Facebook parent guides and resources
  • Inform your child that individual and group chats are not private and that their friends parent/supervising adult will have full visibility of all conversations.
  • Co-construct clear use guidelines for when, where and how your child is allowed to use this tool.
  • Ensure your child understands what personal information they should and shouldn’t share, even with friends in online environments.
  • Establish what it means to show integrity, respectful interactions, etiquette and communication techniques.
  • Regularly monitor conversations and use this an opportunity to flag with your child any digital etiquette techniques or Cyber Safety.
  • Discuss ways they can seek help when they are unsure, feel uncomfortable or need help.