As a parent of three young kids I can tell you I’ve looked at a lot of messaging solutions for keeping in touch with my kids when I travel, none of them – other than Apple’s iMessage, have ticked all the boxes.
Facebook’s announcement today that Messenger Kids is expanding outside the US and into more countries – including Australia may just change that whole process and create a whole set of new tickboxes that parents should be considering.
I’ve wanted a way to keep in touch with the kids, iMessage is great, allowing text, images, gifs, and even video calls using Facetime. However, it requires the kids to have an Apple device. I’m lucky we have that, but for people with an older Android Phone lying around or looking at affordable Android tablets to buy – that rules it out as a platform.
WhatsApp requires a phone number, and most other platforms are way too open to outside activity like possible random messages from strangers to even consider putting your kids on them.
Enter Messenger Kids. This is a messaging app made for kids, but each “child” is setup by the parents.
The app is standalone, your children do not need a Facebook account.
You as the parent setup your child’s device using your own Facebook account – they don’t get your Facebook account or access to it, this is just a verifications.
Next, you setup a child account – what’s really cool here is how this is really built as a process that mimics what all good child safety advisors will recommend in that it almost forces a conversation with your kids about online safety.
Hand the device over to your child and they are asked to make a pledge, to be kind, to be respectful, be safe and have fun. When you do this – this is your perfect window as a parent to talk to your kids about what it means to be respectful and kind to other people.
It also allows you to say to them that they can talk to you about things they see in chats that don’t fit those commitments.
Next up, you add contacts. You can do this in your Parent Dashboard on Facebook. Parent’s control this whole environment, parent’s can see who the kids are chatting with, they can see what images are being shared, and they can see who the kids are blocking.
Kids can exchange “codes” to add each other, and you can approve or deny those additions.
There are even ways for groups of kids to be added as contacts, such as school or sports groups, but you as a parent can retract any approvals at any time.
Perhaps importantly, kids can’t share links to websites, and they also won’t see any ads.
From there, it’s all fun for the kids.
Video calls can include silly Augmented Reality masks, or sound effects, and the kids can have regular text chats with people in your family who are using the regular Messenger app – all once approved as contacts by the parents.
And all those sickers and filters for video calls? Free – there are no in-app purchases.
If you are worried the kids will stay connected too long? You can set up a downtime too – putting the account into Sleep Mode.
Simple, kids first, with parental control at the core of the offering.
Web: Messenger Kids