As YouTube scrambles to update its protocols in the wake of outcries from parents, frustrated that their children keep accidentally discovering inappropriate content on the platform, Facebook has stepped up to the plate.
‘Messenger Kids’ is being touted as a safe and secure platform from which children can use Facebook messenger. Designed to include members of the family that are younger than 13, the system comes with numerous security protocols and protections for the younger members of the family.
For starters, using the system requires no Facebook account, phone number or personal details. The parent downloads the messenger app to the child’s tablet or device and two large boxes appear. In the first box, the child can create a profile if they wish to, with the requisite profile pic, and on the other are a list of approved contacts. Parents use a secure password to create these contacts, and can easily manage them through the application. Messenger Kids can then only be used to contact those approved people.
The application is designed to include younger members of the family who may feel left out when older brothers and sisters can chat to mum and dad and other members of the family from their device, and they cannot because they don’t have a Facebook account. But there is clearly another purpose – bringing kids into the social media sphere as early as possible.
Through making messenger the primary means of communication within the family, it becomes indispensable. By introducing children to the functionality from an early age, they instinctively move onto standard Facebook Messenger when they reach the age of 13. There is nothing wrong with either of these things – and Facebook has made every effort to provide a practical solution to a genuine problem, but parents should be aware of the implications.
As mentioned, the platform itself is solid. Facebook assigned an entire team to this project and was incredibly careful to ensure any holes were filled before launching it. There is no monetisation or advertising on the platform, and no information is collected by Facebook. Nobody can search for your child’s profile, and there are numerous safety filters in place to avoid the sending or receiving of unsavoury messages.
Perhaps worst of all for grandparents, augmented reality filters are prevalent and so little Jimmy will take pleasure in transforming into a monster and roaring into their iPad whenever a call begins.
This is a solid community-minded moved from Facebook, and it will be interesting to see how other networks respond.