Carl Court/Getty Images News/Getty Images

This Version Of Facebook Messenger For Kids Loops Parents In On Kids' Chat Habits

By
Share
Ad failed to load

The internet is a big, dynamic, and oftentimes dangerous ecosystem where kids can just as easily chat with a stranger as they can fill their brains with info about photosynthesis for a class project. And, above all, the world wide web is unavoidable, even for very young children. So, Facebook has developed an app to allow youngsters to access one of the best parts of the internet — namely, chatting — in a way that it bills as safe and controlled. Out Monday, the new version of Facebook Messenger specifically for kids, aptly called Messenger Kids, keeps parents in the loop so that they can feel confident that their kids' online interactions are age-appropriate and limited to people they actually know and trust.

As anybody with kids probably knows, a federal law designed to protect kids from online predators and exploitative advertising prohibits children under the age of 13 from having their own social media accounts. Still, kids want to use messaging apps as much as their parents oftentimes want to ensure that they have a handle on what their kids are getting up to on the interwebs. Enter Messenger Kids, the independent app designed for 6- to 12-year-olds that requires parents to authorize their kids' accounts before they're set up and to approve any potential new contacts before kids start chillin' online together.

Ad failed to load

In a blog post announcing the new app, Facebook shared that Messenger Kids will have all the features that kids love: one-on-one and group video chats, masks, emojis, sounds effects, and more. But the app, which launched Monday as a preview for iOS users in the United States only, eschews a lot of the more adult elements of a messaging app that oftentimes make parents wary, such as advertisements and a searchable database of others who are on the app. Parents can simply use their regular Facebook accounts to monitor their kids' online activity and approve friends and relatives for them to interact with.

Still, as Recode's Kurt Wagner pointed out in his coverage of the new app, there's one glaring motivation for Facebook to develop Messenger Kids that can hardly go unmentioned. Roping in children and preteens now, of course, makes it that much more likely that they will graduate to using a regular Facebook account when they turn 13, rather than using another app, such as Snapchat, instead. Is that why the app it making its debut now?

Ad failed to load

Facebook itself seems to have anticipated the criticism, though. Another blog post, this one written by Facebook's public policy director and head of public safety Antigone Davis, argued that such a parent-controlled app is necessary because kids are going to use messaging apps one way or another. Davis wrote that the company worked with child development experts, parents, and educators over the course of a year and a half to develop Messenger Kids. Those on the project found that most kids have access to tablets and smartphones. Additionally, using the internet on those devices even has educational benefits, and allows kids to connect with family members.

But parents had one common concern about giving their kids access to the internet or to messaging services — even knowing the benefits, Davis explained in the post:

... [P]arents want to know they’re in control. They want a level of control over their kids' digital world that is similar to the level they have in the real world. Just as they want to know whose house their child will be visiting for a playdate, they want to know who their child is connecting with online. And just as they want to say "lights out" at night, they also want to be able to say "phones off."
Ad failed to load

Using Messenger Kids, parents will be able to maintain a level of control, but not one so great that they would be infringing on their kid's privacy. That wouldn't necessarily be possible with other apps. Whether this actually makes kids safer is yet to be seen.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Ad failed to load

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}