Are Students Safe on Facebook Messenger Kids?

What do we need to know about Facebook Messenger Kids?

Are Students Safe on Facebook Messenger Kids?

Facebook recently launched a new application for children between 6-13 years of age. The app is called Facebook Messenger Kids, and is available on iOS. The concept behind the app is that it acts as a safe communication platform for children, their families, and their friends.

Although the release of the app has been generally favorable, it does raise a few questions. How safe is Facebook Messenger Kids? Should children be exposed to social media at such an early age? As teachers are concerned with the digital safety of their students, understanding these facts about the app can help them collaborate with parents in keeping young students safe.

Positive Features of the App:

Secure set-up: Unlike Facebook Messenger, this app doesn’t require students to have a Facebook account to create a profile. Instead, a profile is created by the parents using their Facebook account.

Adding friends: Parents can easily manage their child’s account as they add the contacts. Also, when users try to add contacts, the app informs the parent associated with the account, and requires them to accept or delete the request.

Reporting and blocking: Both parents and children can report offenders, and their accounts may be disabled. Parents are alerted when the child reports or blocks a user. It also ensures that the child’s profile is hidden from the blocked user.

Parental authority: Parents are given the authority to delete an account for any reason. Chats cannot be deleted and can be easily monitored by the parent.

Safety Concerns:

Password protection: The absence of password protection puts children at risk if they were to lose their device.

Authenticity of profiles: The app is not able to verify the child’s age or identity and can be easily manipulated. Numerous fake accounts can be created from a single account as it is not easy to verify the number of children belonging to a household. This increases the risk of online predators accessing the app.

Filters: Although the app has protective filters, it is not able to completely filter out all inappropriate content and language, implying that students can be subjected to both if the individual they chat with posts such content on their chat box.

Blocking: Parents are not informed when a child has un-blocked a user.

While there are pros and cons, on a whole Facebook Messenger Kids does provide young students with a safe platform to communicate. Despite this, it is important that both parents/guardians and teachers take the time to educate students on appropriate digital etiquette. Teachers can collaborate with parents to assess the readiness of the child to use the app and write up contracts listing rules to be followed for safe and responsible usage. Teachers should develop and maintain open lines of communication with the students and create a safe positive environment, encouraging students to approach them for any assistance required.

 


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