Facebook launches Messenger Kids across Sub-Saharan Africa
Facebook has on Wednesday rolled out Messenger Kids in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Messenger Kids is a video chat and messaging app that aims to help children connect with friends and family in a fun but parent-controlled space.
The app was designed for children between the ages of 6 to 12 years.
With safety and privacy concerns in mind, Facebook has worked closely with Youth Advisors, made up of experts in online safety, child development and media.
Ahead of its launch, Facebook consulted with child safety advocates and educators across Africa to ensure that its providing a service that balances parental control with features that help kids learn how to connect responsibly online.
Messenger Kids is made for children but fully controlled by their parents. Once their account is set up by a parent, kids can start a one-on-one or group video chat.
The home screen shows them at a glance who they are connected to as well as when those contacts are online.
Facebook's Head of Global Safety Antigone Davis said this app will provide an opportunity to facilitate a conversation between parent and child over the use of technology. "Often times, when parents bring their children to an app, kids are already 13 and above, so it's hard to provide guidance at that age. We saw this as an opportunity to help children and parents talk about and discuss technology. It also allows parents to set boundaries."
Davis described Messenger Kids as technology "with training wheels."
Fun features available on the app, include playful and age-appropriate masks, emojis and sound effects that bring conversations to life.
Kids can also send photos, videos or text messages to their parent-approved friends and adult relatives, who will receive the messages via their regular Messenger app.
“We know that parents are turning to technology more than ever to help their kids connect with friends and family online. With privacy, security and parental control at the heart of the app, Messenger Kids provides a safe, fun space, controlled by parents to do exactly that,” Kojo Boakye, Facebook Public Policy Director, Africa said.
Safety expert Evelyn Kasina, Family IT Consultant, Eveminet, added: "It is our responsibility to ensure online safety for our children. The greatest sign of success is when our children display responsible independence during their online interaction. The launch of Facebook Messenger Kids is an amazing stride toward child online safety because our young children will enjoy and participate on social media on child developed platforms that have safety parameters to keep them safe.”
Parents have the comfort of knowing that through the Parent Dashboard, parents can control and monitor their child’s activity enabling them to:
- Monitor recent contacts, chat history, and reported and blocked contacts. This includes who your child is chatting with, whether they are video chatting or sending messages and how frequently those conversations happened over the past 30 days. Parents will continue to be notified via Messenger if their child blocks or reports someone.
- See the most recent photos and videos your child has sent and received in their inbox. If you believe an image or video is not appropriate, you can remove it from your child’s message thread and report it.
- Choose to allow their kids to also accept, reject, add or remove contacts, while maintaining the ability to override any new contact approvals from the Parent Dashboard
- See all devices where your child is logged in to Messenger Kids and log out of the app on any device through the Parent Dashboard
- Download your child’s information: Request a copy of your child’s Messenger Kids information, similar to how you can download your own information within the Facebook app.
It is worth noting that there are no ads in Messenger Kids and your child’s information isn’t used for ads.
It is free to download from the Apple App and Google Play Stores and there are no in-app purchases.