Facebook has updated Messenger Kids with new options for parents to see and control how their children are using the messaging app, the company announced today. These tools can be accessed by parents through the Parent Dashboard in the main Facebook app.
Parents will now be able to see more details about who their children are messaging with, whether they’re video calling them, and a history of anyone they’ve blocked in the app. They’ll also be able to see a log of recent images their child has sent and received (with the option to remove and report it if it’s inappropriate), and can log them out of devices remotely at any time. A new option also now allows parents to download all of their child’s information, similar to the data-download feature available in the main Facebook app.
Messenger Kids has faced intense scrutiny since its launch in December 2017. Questions were raised about Facebook’s motivations for offering a product aimed at children, and some child advocacy groups have called for the app to be shut down. Then, last year Facebook admitted that a flaw had allowed children to participate in group chats with people that hadn’t been approved as contacts by their parents — a core security feature of the app.
Although Facebook is tweaking the way blocking works on Messenger Kids, it emphasizes that children will still be able to interact with blocked contacts if they’re in the same group chat. However, group chats will warn children when they contain someone that they’ve blocked. Facebook says that kids will now be able to unblock contacts by themselves if they want, and that conversations with blocked contacts will remain in their inbox to give the option for parents to review.
Facebook is keen to emphasize that it does not share information about Messenger Kids users with third parties, and that it doesn’t use their data for advertising. However, given the for-profit company’s historic inability to protect user data (purposely or not), inevitable questions still remain about why Messenger Kids needs to exist in the first place.