Facebook is launching a preview of its new messaging app for kids today, Messenger Kids. It provides a safe environment for kids to video chat and send messages to pre-approved contacts, while parents maintain control from their own Facebook accounts. The app is the culmination of thousands of interviews with parents, work with associations like National PTA and Blue Star Families, and advice from over a dozen parenting experts in the US. For now, the preview is only available for iOS devices in the US, but will expand to both the Amazon Appstore and Google Play Store in the coming months.
With the proliferation of connected devices in the hands of kids, parents are increasingly worried about their own straying into the Wild West of the internet. The new standalone app lives on a kid’s smartphone or tablet, but the control center is squarely in the hands of their parents.
Over the last several months, families from Facebook and Messenger have been testing the app, providing feedback and coming up with key features for the final product. With the just released preview, kids can start one-on-one or group video chats with parent-approved contacts. Parents can also see contact requests and are in charge of accepting or denying them. The home screen on a kid’s device will show who they are approved to chat with and who’s currently online. And similar to Snapchat, masks, emojis and sound effects are part of the fun.
Kids can also send messages, photos and videos to approved contacts who will receive them on their own Messenger Kids app or regular Messenger app. Kids can choose from a library of age appropriate GIFs, frames, stickers and drawing tools to have fun and express their personalities.
A parent can set up a Messenger Kids account in four easy steps. They first need to download the app on their child’s device. Then they will authenticate that device on their own Facebook account. An account can then be created by only including the child’s name and the last step is to simply add contacts.
Messenger Kids has no ads and a child’s information will never be used for ads, which is important considering Facebook’s otherwise aggressive approach with ads. There are also no in-app purchases and the app is compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA).
You can watch a quick video demonstration of Messenger Kids here.