Facebook Messenger Kids: What It Is and How to Use It

Facebook Messenger for Kids is tightly controlled by parents.  Getty Images

Facebook recently launched Messenger Kids, a free messaging app designed especially for children ages 6-13. With it, your child can send texts, share images, and video chat but only with contacts you approve on your device, not from your child's phone or tablet. Should you let your child use it? 

Facebook Messenger Kids Explained

There are no ads in Messenger Kids, no in-app purchases, and no phone number is required.

In addition, signing your child up for Messenger Kids does not automatically create a standard Facebook account for them. 

Messenger Kids is currently available only in the United States, and only for iOS devices (iPhone or iPad). 

Is It Safe? 

Parents want their child's online interactions to be safe, private, and appropriate. With Messenger Kids, Facebook has deftly sought to balance the demands of parents with its corporate goal to increase usage and users across its social media ecosystem. In fact, Facebook says it consulted with the National PTA, child development and online safety experts for help in developing the Messenger Kids app. 

  • Parents must first approve a contact from within their account, not the child's Messenger Kids account. 
  • If an adult or child attempts to contact your child through Messenger Kids, you receive an alert first on your Facebook app. You must approve this person before your child can respond.
  • One potential issue for some parents is that you must be Facebook friends with any adults you approve for Messenger Kids. Or if it's a child, you must be friends with that child's parent(s). 

Messenger Kids complies with the government's "COPPA" rules, which limits the collection and use of information on children under age 13.

 Also of note, the many GIFs, virtual stickers, masks and filters available with the app are restricted to only those included in the Messenger Kids library.   

Setting Up Messenger Kids

Setting up Messenger Kids is cumbersome, though that's partly by design. Essentially, parents must download the app on the child's device but manage contacts and changes on their device. This ensures parents remain fully in control. 

  1. Download Messenger Kids onto your child's smartphone or tablet. 
  2. Input your Facebook username and password into the app, as directed. Don't worry, this doesn't mean your child will have access to your Facebook account. 
  3. Next, create a Messenger Kids account for your child.
  4. Lastly, add any approved contacts. Reminder: This last step must be completed from your device. There will now be a Messenger Kids "parental controls panel" on your Facebook app, and this is where you add or delete any contacts going forward. 

A helpful feature, and one likely to increase usage, is that the contacts your child interacts with, be it grandparents, cousins, or anyone else, doesn't have to download Messenger Kids. The chats appear inside their regular Facebook Messenger app.​

Filters And Monitoring  

Facebook claims its safety filters can detect and stop children from seeing or sharing nudity or sexual content.

The company also promises its support team will quickly respond to any flagged content. Parents can provide additional feedback via the Messenger Kids page.    

That said, it's important to note that the parental controls panel on your Facebook app does not allow you to see when your child chatted nor the content of any messages. The only way to know that is to review your child's Messenger Kids activity on their phone or tablet. 

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