Facebook launched Messenger Kids in December to rave reviews, mostly from parents.
The new app was created for safe, secure and fun family communication.
Those positive parent reactions actually make sense. After all, Facebook spent considerable time with experts, educators and parenting groups to be sure they were crafting a product parents would use and kids would like.
Getting kids to like it (and use it) is the trick, of course. They are a fickle bunch, always hot to try the next big piece of tech or shiny new app.
“After talking to thousands of parents, associations like National PTA, and parenting experts in the U.S., we found that there’s a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want,” said Loren Cheng, Facebook’s product management director for Messenger Kids.
Initially available only on Apple’s App Store, Facebook released a version on Amazon for Fire Tablets in January and on the Google Play Store in February. Messenger Kids has been steadily moving up the list of app store popularity charts.
“In addition to our research with thousands of parents, we’ve engaged with over a dozen expert advisers in the areas of child development, online safety and children’s media and technology who’ve helped inform our approach to building our first app for kids,” Cheng added.
This included conversations related to topics of responsible online communication, parental controls and other issues important to organizations like Blue Star Families.
Messenger Kids is similar to Facebook’s popular Messenger app. However, it wasn’t created to simply sit on the Messenger backbone, even if it has some of the same features.
If you’re not familiar with Messenger, according to Statista.com, it ranks second among the world’s most popular messaging apps behind WhatsApp, and ahead of WeChat, QQ Mobile and Skype, respectively.
Like other messaging apps, users can connect with anyone else who uses the app, including international contacts. Messages can include different types of media, from traditional text messages to photos and video chats.
Once you create the account for your kids, they can start one-on-one or group video chats with parent-approved contacts.
“Parents fully control the contact list and kids can’t connect with contacts that their parent does not approve,” Cheng added. The home screen shows your kids who they’re approved to talk to, and when those contacts are online.
My kids love the tools for creating expressions through emojis, stickers, kid-appropriate GIFs, and adding masks and other effects to live video chats.
You won’t find annoying ads in Messenger Kids and Facebook claims your child’s information won’t be used for ads.
It’s free to download, and has one of my favorite features – no in-app purchases.
Dr. Adam C. Earnheardt is professor and chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, USA. He researches and writes about communication and relationships, parenting and sports. He writes a weekly column for The Vindicator newspaper on social media and society.