A new way for kids to chat with one another has arrived in Canada.
Facebook’s Messenger Kids has now officially rolled out to Canada after being launched in the U.S. late last year. The standalone app lets kids message and video call one another.
The platform will not run advertisements and is billed as a safe way for kids to connect with close friends and family from either a smartphone or tablet. Parents are able to approve contacts and set time limits through Messenger Kids’ sleep mode function.
Apps targeted at kids have been extremely controversial over the past few years as experts weigh in whether it’s a good idea to expose young kids to technology. Privacy issues also run rampant as no one is ever too sure what is being done with the data shared over social networks. However, Facebook says it has consulted with several organizations such as MediaSmarts here in Canada and determined that there is a need for a children’s messenger app that champions security and parental control.
“MediaSmarts’ research shows that younger kids are using social networking platforms–many of which are designed for teens and adults,” said Jane Tallim, co-executive Director of MediaSmarts. “Online platforms specifically designed for children, such as Messenger Kids, can support parents in helping their kids build digital skills in a safe and respectful environment.”
The app is downloaded and controlled through a parent’s Facebook account, and creating a Messenger Kids account does not mean the parent is creating a Facebook account for their child. Every contact must be approved, then children can video chat, type to one another, and send pictures adorned with stickers and other approved images and filters.
The app also has a dedicated Messenger Kids team to review content and make sure all safeguards are working in the right manner.
A quarter of fourth graders in Canada have their own device, while three out of five U.S. parents say their children under 13 years old use messaging apps and social media. Facebook’s goal with the widespread rollout of Messenger Kids is to acknowledge that kids are increasingly living online anyways, so why not try and make it a safe place.
Some of the main concerns involved with the app point to the fact that many kids, as shown above, already have ways to connect with their parents and friends. That means this app could just be a way to groom a new generation of Facebook users, rather than providing a protected method of connecting with close friends and family.