Facebook’s controversial Messenger Kids app is coming to Android today

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.

Comments

"What could possibly go wrong?"

Also, you’ve got a typo, "last" should be list, I believe.

Facebook: we’ve been thinking, and from now on we’re going to focus less on market capture and build a better, more responsible experience

Also Facebook: hello children, want some candy?

6-12?!

Now I’ll be realistic and accept I might have to allow my 12 year old access to chat apps so they don’t become a social outcast.

But no way is my 6 year old going anywhere near that!

For anyone who might be interested in an alternative to Messenger Kids… My wife and I built an app recently that helps preschool-age kids nurture early relationships with each other and their loved ones with photos and short videos. It contains no advertising and no further agenda. A minimal purchase price means we don’t have to use creepy tactics for revenue. We do ask for the child’s birthday but that’s just to (eventually) push reminders to friends/relatives to send birthday wishes. It’s not a social network, and parents have full control (it’s meant to live on the parent’s phone only). We of course think it’s better, safer and more private than Messenger for Kids It focuses more on relationships than distracting fancy filters and effects. My wife is a trained child development educator and I’m an app developer/UX designer. Available for both Android and iOS… https://www.kosmapps.com/toddie/
We hope some parents out there find it useful, let us know if you do!

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