Facebook Announces Messenger App for Kids That Parents Can Remotely Monitor

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Facebook today is rolling out a preview for a new standalone app aimed at kids under the age of 13, which the company says was built to make it easier for kids to "safely video chat and message with family and friends." The "Messenger Kids" preview is available only on iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad in the United States, letting young family members download the app, which can then be controlled by their parent's Facebook account.

Facebook said that it developed the app with guidance from the National PTA, as well as experts in child development and online safety. Messenger Kids does not require children to create a Facebook account, but instead asks parents to download the app, authenticate it, and then create a miniature profile of their kid that is linked to the parent's Facebook account.

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Once parents set up an account, kids can have one-on-one or group video calls only with contacts approved by their parents. The home screen of the app shows these approved contacts, as well as which are online.

Whether it’s using video chat to talk to grandparents, staying in touch with cousins who live far away, or sending mom a decorated photo while she’s working late to say hi, Messenger Kids opens up a new world of online communication to families. This preview is available on the App Store for iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone.

Like other Facebook apps, there are a wide variety of masks, emojis, and sound effects to use within video chats. Kids will be able to send photos, videos, and text messages -- and edit them with GIFs, frames, stickers, and doodling tools -- to their friends also on Messenger Kids, as well as adult family members. The adult contacts will receive these messages on their normal Messenger app.

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For parents, there will now be a Messenger Kids parental controls panel on their own Facebook app, where they can approve or disallow certain contacts from being able to talk with their kid. Facebook said that there are "no ads" in Messenger Kids and any of the child's information from the app "isn't used for ads."

Messenger Kids is available on the iOS App Store for free starting today [Direct Link], and Facebook confirmed that there are no in-app purchases. For more information, visit Facebook's new website for the kid-focused app.

Top Rated Comments

Kaibelf Avatar
41 months ago

Yes, marvelous. I highly recommend to develop trust with your child by monitoring everything they say and in doing so forcing them to find another avenue to communicate that you have literally no idea about.

Why not just give them an invite to a dark web chat portal (assuming such a thing exists).

When you were a child, would you have put up with that ****? Now imagine the same scenario with a child with more technological knowledge than most parents will every have and see what the result is.

Oh please. When people in their 40s were children you had to call your parents to tell them where you were, had to ask permission to go places, and if you were acting strange you bet your butt Mom and Dad would search your room and demand answers. It's called parenting.

My parents provided trust, within reason, but they also provided consequences as well as a clear chain of command in the home. It was a balance for which I am greatly appreciative because I didn't end up with any of the issues that the kids with the "cooler parents" ended up having.

Perhaps if people spent more time providing structure and guidance instead of trying to be their kids' friends all the time, we wouldn't have a lot of the behavioral and social problems we're dealing with these days. Also, it's the parents' JOB to get the knowledge they need to handle things, or ask for help.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Alonso Quijano Avatar
41 months ago

A parents job is to spy on their kids so they don't end up a bully/bullied, addicted to drugs, in jail, or dead.

Kids with these parents that only provide "guidance" are the problem. Those kids do drugs & "share" with their friends, bully other kids at school, steal from people/businesses, and end up doing stupid stuff that gets other kids hurt/killed. If all parents were up in their kids business, that wouldn't happen.

My parents never spied on me, read my emails, my text messages, etc. and I don’t do drugs or bully anyone. Generalizing a bit, aren’t you?

I will fully encourage my children to use encrypted messaging to eliminate any possibly of me spying on them
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GrumpyMom Avatar
41 months ago

As a parent I very much understand the reason why you would handle it that way.
Here’s why I’m hesitant to go all the way like you do, though: Our behaviour changes when we know we’re being surveilled. By knowing that her parents can access her private chats and messages whenever they want, not only may the way she phrases certain things change but she may also grow up feeling that surveillance is a natural thing and may thus be willingly accept excessive surveillance and invasion into her privacy that is more and more done by companies and public authorities (even in so-called „free countries“) nowadays.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be vigilant about what our kids are doing online but I’m afraid we’re making things worse by exercising total control over them.

But we ARE being surveilled. Not necessarily always by the government, but by big business and advertisers. There should never be any assumption of privacy on the internet. That ship done sailed.

I found and replayed for the kids every one of the queries made to OK Google on my account, including all the questions they asked about exploding farts. :p I showed them the extensive records Google keeps on me. Apple has a similar log but end users don’t have access to it.

Then there is the harsh reality that some of our texts are encrypted and “private” depending on the service used, but only until your “friend” on the other end decides it would be advantageous to share something you think you’re texting in confidence with the world at large on another social media forum.

There are some talks I give to the kids before entrusting them to sleepovers and cellphones and so forth. The talk that initially garners the most skepticism but always has them coming back to tell me “OMG, you were soooo right” is “The treachery of Friends.” For it is a simple fact of life that even the best of friends at certain ages and stages do certain kinds of crappy things to each other and it’s perfectly normal part of growth and development, but something to be aware of. It doesn’t mean that one’s friends are evil twerps, just human and that as humans they make mistakes that can have horrible repercussions they’re too young to foresee. And yes, even adults still do stuff like this. So...

We ALL should exercise careful thought and discretion to every word we commit to electronic form.

When my husband and I give access to a piece of technology or give the gift of a cellphone, we explain outright the access comes with terms and conditions set by us. They know they can circumvent the rules but mostly they do not, because there aren’t any rules in place that are to their detriment. We are happy to explain why we do what we do. They know we are their first, best advocates in this world.

Our rules are sensible and reasonable in that they are meant to address real problems a person could actually expect to encounter.

And no matter how much they may verbally protest, children and teens and even young adults seek boundaries and guidance. At least until they can gather enough experience and perspective to form their own boundaries. Without rules and limits and some structure, it’s actually very challenging to define oneself and find one’s center during the formative years.

Did you ever wonder about how easily it is for some young people to fall into cults or get drawn in by someone charismatic who tells them what to do? There can be many varied reasons, but to me it often seems like at least some of these people didn’t get that gradual handoff from parental policing to self policing. That’s something my husband and I strive hard to do, to let everyone know we are building only a foundation but they will eventually be taking the control and building the rest of their lives.

Reasonable, well thought out rules and boundaries don’t make kids more apt to be automatons. They’re actually necessary at certain stages of development for healthy psychological development. Once the developmental milestones are reached, you have an adult who actually can think for themselves and resist thought control from less scrupulous people.

But here’s one secret: I do create some rules I pulled out of my butt that have zero real world serious consequences if they are flouted or broken. Most pertain to standards of room cleanliness, some arbitrary dress code type of stuff, and language. Don’t get me wrong, the rules are still good ones, but nobody is going to end up trafficked or humiliated for life if they’re broken. The kids hear me complain about the state of their rooms, see me glare at poor grammar or attempts to create their own profanities, and tell them to go back to their rooms to change to an outfit better suiting the occasion and they feel like they’ve put in the requisite amount of rebellion when they address these issues on their own terms or get me to compromise. They’re happy, I’m happy, and the really important rules remain fully respected and intact. ;) And they are happy when they get to grouse with their friends about my “rules” —that really aren’t the rules they think they are. In fact I’ve overheard them exaggerating about how strict I am on those rules. I’ve asked about the exaggeration and was told “Ah, nobody wants to hear I’ve got a sane mom when their mom is a dragon.” :eek:
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GrumpyMom Avatar
41 months ago

Kids should be allowed to make their own mistakes, it’s how they grow up. You can guide and teach your children without being overbearing surveillance.

These days some of their mistakes have consequences like ending up in a sex trafficking ring or saying or doing things that lead other children to commit suicide. Then everyone wonders “where were the parents?”

There was a very recent case of a 13 year old girl whose parents trusted her with her smartphone until they found out she was in contact with an adult male who clearly was grooming her for exploitation. The parents confiscated the phone, kept an eye on her and turned the phone over to the police for investigation into who the man was.

Somehow the girl got hold of another iPhone without the parents knowledge. Her mom drove her to school, the girl attended one class, ditched the rest of school, went to a train station and conned some woman into buying her a train ticket to where the predator was waiting for her. Thankfully, police rescued the girl with information from the woman who had been duped into buying her the ticket. The girl was apparently to have been entered into a child trafficking operation.

Because of struggles and odd behavior patterns I’ve noticed in an extended family member struggling with addiction, I’ve been reading a few case studies of psychopaths, and there is apparently a spectrum in psychopathy that doesn’t involve the kind of murderous behavior we commonly think of when we hear that word. In fact, the psychopaths on a spectrum are more a danger to themselves than to other people, because they don’t have the same emotional reaction to traumatic situations that most of us have. They can repeatedly lie very creatively to keep putting themselves in situations where they will be abused or take drugs until their stomachs need to be pumped. They will have near death experiences and their only reaction will be “oh, interesting.” It boggles the mind at how non reactive they are to the havoc they cause and experience.

The normal authority figures in their lives will be puzzled not knowing how to reach these kids. Logic and reason do not work. The kids can understand the logic and reasoning of appeals to their common sense on a cognitive level, as most of them are quite intelligent, but it won’t work because they make no emotional connection to the words and can’t internalize the advice or pleadings of their horrified parents. What happened to this young girl is almost a word for word typical experience of one of the recurring mental patients in one of the case studies I read.

If you’re the parent or guardian of such a person, there is nothing you can do but exert surveillance and direct control until that child turns 18 and then you are forced to turn them loose into society at large, which is wholly inadequate to the task of keeping such people safe from themselves.

I am thankful that by sheer luck I don’t have to deal with that sort of thing myself. If I did, you can bet I’d be authoritarian. If I discover in the future that my trust is misplaced or I failed to see a pathology right under my nose...and I’m humble enough to acknowledge it could happen because psychopathy is a very tricky thing to detect sometimes, I will become like a Communist China and monitor everything I can. The person I bring into the world by my choice is my legal, moral, and ethical responsibility until the legal age of majority. After that, if they want to entrust their safety and well-being to my care, it is my great honor and privilege to continue to help look after them as they find their own footing in the world and become full fledged, mentally matured, capable adults.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macsba Avatar
41 months ago
Reinforces my belief that Facebook reads every message across it’s network.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
superduperultra Avatar
41 months ago
Helicopter parents, rejoice!
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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