Facebook launched Messenger Kids earlier this week – a messaging, video and chat app for children aged 6 to 12. Facebook sells it as a way for preteens to safely communicate with parents and friends because kids can’t create a Messenger Kids account, or add any new contacts, without parental approval.
Natalie Bazarova, is a professor in the Department of Communication at Cornell University and director of the Cornell Social Media Lab. She examines social-psychological and communication processes in social media and mobile interaction. Bazarova, who writes more about the launch of Messenger Kids in this Medium story, recommends building a “Family Media Use Plan” to ensure kid’s safety and healthy development as it relates to digital media.
“The idea of a children’s messaging application with built-in parental controls is a response to today’s reality of families living in a digitally connected world where children are surrounded by devices, have access to them, and even own a device like a tablet or smartphone. But as with any electronic devices, parents should closely monitor and regulate children’s use of a device and their time spent on it so that it does not displace other developmentally appropriate activities such as outdoor-play, exercise time, or face-to-face interactions with peers.
“The recently updated guidelines for children’s media use from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend families to develop a personalized Family Media Use Plan, and Messenger Kids should be part of this plan to restrict time spent on the app and make sure it enhances children’s healthy development.
“Finally, Facebook can implement built-in mechanisms into the app itself, e.g., a turn-off timer, that supports a healthy media diet and regulates time spent on devices versus doing something else.”