Facebook is bringing its Messenger Kids chat app to Android today after first rolling it out on iOS in December. Messenger Kids is designed for younger children (ages six to 12) as a way to safely communicate with friends and family. Parents are able to strictly control who their kids are able to connect with over the app. It includes features like video chat (complete with playful selfie “masks”), stickers, drawing tools, and more. Messenger Kids expanded to Amazon’s app store in January to add compatibility with Fire tablets. TechCrunch first reported on the Android rollout. It should be available in the Google Play store at some point today.
Facebook has been adamant from the beginning that it has worked extremely diligently to ensure everything about Messenger Kids is age-appropriate and focused on privacy. Facebook has also maintained that it’s not using a child’s Messenger Kids data for advertising purposes.
Parents control the approved contact list in their regular Facebook app, and kids are only able to communicate with people on that curated list. The company believes this is inherently safer than letting kids use chat platforms that provide little oversight and are harder to monitor and lock down.
But in an era where many parents are concerned about their children spending too much time with their eyes glued to a screen, Messenger Kids has raised eyebrows. Some child development experts have already called on Facebook to shut down the app. At best, Facebook is doing just what it says: it’s providing a secure chat experience for young folks under 13 — while also setting them on a very direct course to continue using Facebook once they’re old enough to set up a proper account. But the reality is that some kids are gravitating towards social media and chat apps long before they hit 13 anyway, so it comes down to whether you prefer Facebook or some other platform (potentially with less comprehensive parental controls) to be the barrier between them and random strangers.