FACEBOOK MESSENGER FOR KIDS

Great app to help raise digital citizens

It fosters amazing and safe connections between children and parents.

In Summary
  • Through its Parent Dashboard, parents can control and monitor children’s online activities.
  • The dashboard can monitor recent contacts, chat history, and a log of images and videos in chats.

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, children have had one unspoken request, “We miss our friends, we want to connect with them and do fun things like we did before.” The new coronavirus has exposed our inherent need as humans to stay physically connected and social media has helped keep us in touch.

As we grapple with our new reality, children are spending more time online as they look for interactive ways to entertain themselves and connect with friends.

Internetworldstats Q1 2020 March report shows internet penetration in Africa is rising, with total penetration at 39 per cent. The highest penetration is in Kenya with up to 87 percent, Libya at 74 percent  and Seychelles at 72 percent. Whereas these rising numbers show positive growth in the digital space, they also portend concern where there is unregulated use of the internet by young impressionable minds. It is inevitable that our children will be more exposed to online platforms than before and this has parents mulling over how much control they should exercise over their children’s interactions with social media.

With this in mind, mobile apps that aim at improving safety controls for children are welcome and useful to parents. The good news is that we’re increasingly seeing social media platforms taking an active lead in providing solutions.

Recently Facebook launched the Facebook Messenger for Kids, a video chat and messaging app that helps children between the ages of six to 12 connect with friends and family in a fun, parent-controlled space. The platform is fostering amazing and safe connections between children and parents. Through the app’s Parent Dashboard, parents can control and monitor their children’s online activities. 

Rather than shying away from addressing topics like stalking and bullying, parents should encourage children to respect each other and their diversity and flag any bullying or harassment that they face on social media or in school

The dashboard can monitor recent contacts, chat history, and a log of images and videos in chats. The app also has some interesting features such as Supervised Friending that enables parents to choose to allow their kids to accept, reject, add or remove contacts, while maintaining the ability to override any new contact approvals from the Parent Dashboard.

Remote Devise Logout is a feature that allows parents to see all devices where their child is logged in to Messenger Kids and log out of the app on any device through the Parent Dashboard. The app also enables parents to download the child’s information as a way of staying up to date with their online activities.

As a Digital Literacy Online and Safety practitioner, I loved the fact that Messenger Kids provides a safe space for parents to learn about social media whilst coaching their children on how to handle their information and connect with friends and family.

When I raved about the app to some friends, they expressed general concerns about social media citing explicit content, online predators, excessive screen time and online addiction. I know that being a parent is not easy and that most parents have tonnes of questions about social media and when to introduce their children to it.

I advise parents who are considering Messenger Kids and other kid-friendly apps to have conversations about social media with their children—they may be surprised just how much their kids know.

Rather than shying away from addressing topics like stalking and bullying, parents should encourage children to respect each other and their diversity and flag any bullying or harassment that they face on social media or in school. For parents who wish to introduce Messenger Kids to their children, it’s also noteworthy to highlight that the app allows parents and guardians to manage screen time by applying a sleep mode feature that limits the amount of time spent online.

Ultimately, Messenger Kids in my view is a great tool that parents can use to promote digital literacy and encourage online safety. Parents can also use the app as a conduit to discuss social media with their children from an early age.

In this digital age, I believe that African parents can also use the app to foster connections for their children while encouraging them to share educational content about their diversity and culture. The Messenger Kids app can be used as an educational platform where children can collaborate with their teachers.

Creating digital citizens is a task that falls on parents, guardians and educators, so we have to strive to equip our children with reasonable independence by modelling it to them.

Family IT Consultant and CEO of  Eveminet Communication Solutions