In April 2020, Facebook announced the launch of the Facebook Messenger Kids, in more than 70 new countries.
With new features added and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, still on the rise, the app got designed to allow kids from 6 to 12 years, increased contacts with friends and family, under the supervision of their parents.
As more parents are turning to technology, the Facebook Messenger Kids, with its features, is designed to help kids learn how to connect responsibly, online.
To ensure this, Facebook had the help of youth advisors, child safety advocates and educators, across the world, to shape the fun, in a parent-controlled space.
Features and Safety
Bearing in mind the dangers associated with social media and especially, the age bracket of the target audience, the issue of safety will always be at the forefront.
Since explanations on safety are, almost always intertwined, with features and their workings, here is how the Messenger Kids app works and how it ensures safety:
With this feature, parents can turn on an option that allows their children to accept, reject, add and remove contacts.
Parents are notified, through Messenger and allowed to override any approvals, through the Parent’s Dashboard.
Here, parents can make pictures of the child visible to a select people.
What are the expected effects?
The reality is that children between 6-12 years have no real need for human interactions, as older adults do.
This is one line of argument, with some others, bordering around the effectiveness of the app in ensuring safety against social media risks.
In the week since the app got launched, headlines have focused on its potential downsides, amid concerns about data privacy, tech addiction and the well-being of kids.
Not to downplay any of these, but perhaps the concentration should be on other contributions of the app that are, actually, benefits, both now and in the long-term.
If, also, a large number of children, under 13 already use some form of messaging app and are exposed to the internet and data-enabled phones.
It becomes logical to, deliberately, try to create an environment that is safe and fun, making them the primary target.
A 2017 report on the state of the world’s children, by UNICEF, states that children and adolescents under 18, account for an estimated, one in three internet users around the world.
As much as a lot of people are wary, even, about the benefits the app could provide, the internet and social media has become a huge part of our world.
Teaching kids about messaging, at a young age could be essential, to preparing them for the hyper-connected world they will need to navigate in the future.
Properly educating kids, on safe ways to interact, could see a decrease, in cyber-related crimes and problems.
Alongside parental control and fostering healthy online interactions from an early age, the openness that the app brings holds numerous benefits.
Unlike apps like Snapchat, where chats disappear after 24 hours, messages do not disappear and cannot get hidden on this app, should parents decide to take a look at their children’s activities.
The issue of data privacy, which is another major concern, does not pose an issue, as the app is completely separate from Facebook.
This means that private conversations among registered kids, will not get used in advertising, on the accounts of their parents.
While it is expected that the app will evolve, over time, as kids and parents use it, it is important that, parents do not become lax, in their guidance and that there is active participation on their part, from inception.
The app will help foster healthy and respectful relationships, between parents and kids.
It will teach the kids how to interact healthily and learn through technology.
However, it is not the final point, when it comes to educating children about the internet.
Featured Image: newsfeed.org
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