Facebook announced the launch of Messenger Kids, an age-appropriate video chatting and messaging app meant to offer children a safe platform for virtually interacting with their friends and relatives. The app has been in the market for quite a while globally but now is when the app will be available for users across the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Messenger Kids is designed for children between the ages of 6 to 12 years. The UI consists of features aimed at helping kids connect with friends under their parents’ supervision of course.
Parents can get involved by helping their kids install the app and set up accounts in order to join the video calling service. This takes them straight to the home screen showing them who they are connected to and when those contacts are online.
Facebook did consult with various child safety advocates ahead of the app’s launch as well as educators across the continent. This was to ensure that the service provides a balance between parental controls and features meant to help kids learn how to connect responsibly on Facebook. The company also reports that it has worked closely with Youth Advisors over the years, made up of experts in online safety, child development and media.
Messenger Kids features playful AR filters and sound effects to help bring conversations to life. Additionally, kids will have a collection of age-appropriate GIFs, emojis, frames and stickers to let them decorate content and express their personalities.
Other than video chatting, kids can also send photos, videos and text messages to their parent-approved friends and relatives. Adult relatives will also be able to receive these messages on their regular Messenger apps.
Speaking about the launch, Kojo Boakye, Facebook Public Policy Director, Africa, said, “We know that parents are turning to technology more than ever to help their kids connect with friends and family online. With privacy, security and parental control at the heart of the app, Messenger Kids provides a safe, fun space, controlled by parents to do exactly that.”
The service also features a Parent Dashboard where parents can monitor their children’s activity. This includes the kind of contacts they have, their chat history and blocked contacts. Moreover, parents will know who exactly their kids are chatting with and whether they are video chatting or sending messages and how frequently those conversations have happened for the past 30 days.
The app is definitely a welcome action from Facebook at a time when other video calling apps have faced scrutiny over poor security. It would also be interesting to see the likes of Zoom develop age-appropriate versions safe enough for kids to use.