Facebook opens a social portal for children under 13 with a privacy-focused app designed to neutralize threats from child attackers in heavily deficient social networks as Snapchat – Messenger Kids.
Facebook is the most widely used social network for adults today. More than 2.7 billion people use almost half of them using Messenger, the video and text chat app. While kids can use TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat, the number of people using Facebook’s Messenger Kids right now is quite significant.
What is Messenger Kids?
In 2017, Facebook launched Messenger Kids, a messaging and video chat app designed specifically for kids to communicate with family and close friends. Messenger Kids lets parents download apps to their children’s phones or tablets, create profiles for their kids, and approve friends and family that their kids can text and video chat from parents’ main Messenger.
Technically, children under 13 cannot use social media platforms (including Facebook) under the regulation of COPPA – Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. However, Messenger Kids ignores this requirement because parents actually register and manage their child’s account on their behalf.
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With Messenger Kids, children don’t have public accounts like Facebook. Parents can choose to show their child’s name and account picture to friends and people the parent or child knows. No other social media platform offers parents this level of control.
How to use Messenger Kids?
You can start by downloading the app to your child’s device. Then set up and manage your child’s Messenger Kids account through your primary Facebook account. Plus, you can control your child’s contact list, use your own Messenger account to text and video chat with them, and accept or decline friend requests from them. Other features include time limits on Messenger Kids usage and remote logging out of your child’s account.
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The app relies heavily on parental involvement, both to manage your child’s own account and to contact other parents to approve their children’s connections. Messenger Kids does not hide any information from their parents. Parents can also download their child’s chats at any time.
This can be seen as a common form of communication connecting grandparents with grandchildren (if grandparents are on Facebook), they can start chatting with their grandchildren right away.
Messenger Kids does not allow searching for children through Facebook search to ensure their privacy. So if a child wants to talk to a classmate, you have to befriend the child’s parents and get consent to connect your child with that child.
Facebook declares that ads are not placed in Messenger Kids, and all information about children may not be used for advertising either. The app is completely free and there are no in-app purchases (In-app Purchase). Messenger Kids is also designed to ensure compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA).
Is Messenger Kids safe?
Yes, to a certain extent. Children are safe because parents can monitor everything about their child’s Messenger Kids through their own Facebook dashboard, such as:
- The people they talk to
- The time their children spend chatting, parents can even download the content of the chat including the pictures they send and receive.
Messages in Messenger Kids cannot be deleted. Hence, parents can view all their child’s chats. They also won’t be able to submit links or YouTube videos in Messenger Kids, meaning they will decrease their ability to share sensitive content.
What is the potential danger in Messenger Kids?
Although Messenger Kids is safe because your child only talks to known people such as friends, family, and acquaintances, these close interactions also carry risks of harm to them. One of the most visible risks is cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is completely possible via video. No matter who and when you know your child is calling, Messenger Kids doesn’t save a video chat. As a result, if your child being bullied online, you won’t be able to save the evidence.
Harmful content like pornography
There are certain limitations in Messenger Kids’ filtering system, a recent tech article reported. According to the author, through some simple tests, they found that screenshots of the nude or explicit screenshots could slip through Facebook’s filter.
There is no such perfect tool that can completely protect your child from online threats. You need to regularly educate your children about what is appropriate and inappropriate for your child like how porn will affect their brain, helping them understand what pornography is and how porn distorts your perspective of life.
Overall, Messenger Kids is a safe way for parents to let their kids communicate with friends and family members with parental supervision. But you do not always have time, in fact, some parents also install nude/explicit/porn filtering tools to prevent them from reaching their children, ensuring their children’s safe online world, even without you sitting next to them.
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