Facebook is rolling out a kids version of Facebook Messenger to mixed reaction. Dubbed ‘Messenger Kids’ it’s aimed at children under the age of 13 but is linked to their parents account who have full control over who they add as friends and can communicate with. Currently it will only be available on iOS in the US.
Face the facts, you have to be over 13 to open a Facebook account so what tons of kids do, sometimes with a nod from their parents, is lie about their age. An age barrier doesn’t stop them using Facebook and if they’re not on Facebook they’re on Snapchat or a host of other social media sites. Even if they’re not on social media, kids are chatting to strangers through video games and the like so surely it’s better for parents to at least have some measure of control and oversight?
Messenger Kids – A valuable life skill?
There’s a lot to be said for keeping kids off the Internet and encouraging them to communicate in real life. However there’s also a lot to be said for educating kids in how to use the Internet safely and preparing them for their future online lives. It’s a difficult decision as to when your children are old enough to be given a certain amount of Internet freedom and many parents are likely to prefer to do this in a controlled manner compared to the alternative of free rein on the adult Internet.
It will also become increasing important for children to be familiar with messaging apps. In some ways it’s akin to teaching a child how to use the household telephone landline in the past – it’s a skill that you don’t want them to run riot with but as a part of growing up it’s an essential life lesson to learn. And it won’t just be for communication that they use messaging tools, they’ll be using it for so much more including shopping.
We see this in a small way with eBay Shopbot which lives on the adult version of Facebook Messenger. eBay’s Shopbot is an artificial intelligence enabling you to talk to eBay, to search eBay with text, voice and images. You can already shop on eBay on Facebook Messenger without having to open a browser window or the eBay app.
Retailers are also adopting Facebook Messenger as a form of communication, not just to sell but for things like shipping notifications. Shopify for example enable retailers to Send order updates and respond to messages in Messenger.
In the future it’s likely that we’ll visit websites much less frequently if at all, we’ll be able to use whatever platform we prefer to buy and receive order updates be that Messenger, Whatsapp, voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home, or more likely platforms which don’t even yet exist today.
Whilst Facebook say there is no advertising on Messenger Kids and no in-app purchases, the next generation of Internet Users are likely to live in their messaging apps and what Facebook are doing is tying them in for the future.
How to set up Messenger Kids
Every child account on Messenger Kids must be set up by a parent. For parents, setting your child up with a Messenger Kids account is done in four steps:
First, download the Messenger Kids app on your child’s iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone from the App Store.
Then, authenticate your child’s device using your own Facebook username and password. This will not create a Facebook account for your child or give them access to your Facebook account.
Create an account
Finish the setup process by creating an account for your child, where all you’ll need to do is provide their name. Then the device can be handed over to the child so they can start chatting with the family and friends you approve.
To add people to your child’s approved contact list, go to the Messenger Kids parental controls panel in your main Facebook app. To get there, click on “More” on the bottom right corner in your main Facebook app, and click “Messenger Kids” in the Explore section.