Written by Samantha Nicole Alarilla
Have your toddlers and grade-schoolers been bored out of their minds, bouncing off the walls, and bemoaning the fact that everyone’s too busy to pay attention to them? Have they been miserable attending online classes, unable to physically meet and interact with their new classmates? Or have they been sad about not being able to talk to and play with their friends like they used to? Whatever the case, this quarantine has been isolating for everyone – and for little kids most especially. They do need frequent playtime and socialization with their peers for their proper growth and development!
And while it’s hard to recreate the fun and exciting experience of being with your friends in the online world, the new Messenger Kids app comes pretty darn close. Developed and released by Facebook last 2017, it’s once again making waves as new features were rolled out and more and more kids have been using the app to safely socialize with their friends.
How it works
It’s exactly like the normal Messenger app in almost every way – except for the fact that parents are able to control their child’s Messenger Kids experience. Parents have their very own Parent Dashboard which they can use to monitor their kid’s online activity and make changes as they see fit. They’ll be able to supervise friending, manage the contact list, report and block contacts, and even limit screen time.
Parents will be able to see who their kids are messaging – and how frequently. And while they won’t be able to see the messages themselves, they’ll be able to see the pictures and videos their kids are sending and receiving.
If you’re worried about how the app’s features make it sound like you’re micromanaging every aspect of your kid’s social life – don’t worry. There are settings that will allow your kid to exercise a little more independence, especially if they’re on the older side. Parents are able to configure whether their kids will be able to add and remove contacts from their contact list by themselves, while still being able to monitor their activity on the dashboard. Kids can also take initiative by blocking and reporting contacts they feel are being rude, mean, or exhibiting unsafe behavior. In this way, Messenger Kids truly gives you the opportunity to talk about and practice safe social media use, as well as encourages you and your kids to work on setting online boundaries together.
What you’ll need
Messenger Kids is available for download on the App Store, Google Play, and the Amazon Appstore. It can be used on virtually any device, although it does require later operating systems – such as iOS 10 or higher on Apple, for reference. It only takes up 114 MB of space, so you don’t have to worry about it taking up too much storage on your device! All you need to set up your kid’s account is to authenticate it with your own Facebook account and you’re good to go. The Messenger Kids website provides a detailed explanation of everything you need to know to get started, so it would be helpful to check it out before getting the app!
Some tips for a better Messenger Kids experience
While the app offers a variety of safety options and features, if you’re still worried about your child’s safety online, there are more ways to boost your kid’s security:
- You can use Messenger Kids in tandem with the parent controls on the kid’s device. These can be found in your smartphone or tablet’s settings, and they can be helpful in setting stricter screen time limits or restricting certain websites that your child may visit while using the app.
- Monitor and limit the hours spent on the app. Maximize the app’s sleep mode features to control how much time your kid is spending on their device. It would also be good to talk to your kids about healthy and responsible device use beforehand, so that they’d know why the limits are being set in the first place.
- Make sure that your kid is talking to other kids and not adults. As much as Messenger Kids have updated their app with a lot safeguards to keep malicious accounts out, one can never be too safe. Make sure that your child is only adding friends they personally know – if a name sounds unfamiliar or you’ve never heard your child talk about the person before, it might be best to block them. Remember to constantly keep on the watch for fake accounts pretending to be other kids and encourage your kid to reach out to you when some of the messages they’re receiving start to sound strange or suspicious.
- Teach them the basics of responsible social media use and data privacy. Remind your kids not to give out personal information online – such as addresses, passwords, account details, and the like.
- Discourage them from using foul, derogatory, or offensive language. Educate from the beginning about the harmful effects of using such language and encourage them to interact with their friends in a polite and friendly manner instead. Additionally, let them know that if anyone starts using such language against them to reach out to you so you can work through the experience and take the necessary action together.
Messenger Kids is truly a useful and fun app for your kids to connect with their friends – especially now that we’re still stuck in quarantine. Thanks to its updated parent controls – and the extra tips above – you can ensure that it’ll be a safe and positive experience for everyone. Check Messenger Kids out on your app store and download it now!