Facebook gives parents greater oversight over the use of Messenger Kids

Facebook launched Messenger Kids back in 2017, with the aim of allowing parents to ensure that their children aren’t put at risk of inappropriate contact or bullying.

The company today says that it is expanding the parental monitoring tools to provide parents with a better understanding of how their kids are using the app…

The app originally offered four protections:

  • The account needed to be created by the parent, not the child
  • Parents had to pre-approve all contacts
  • Either kids or parents could block a contact at any time
  • If the child blocked a contact, the parent was notified so they could get the story

The app last year suffered an embarrassing failure when it allowed kids to communicate with unapproved contacts in group chats. The company responded by blocking group chats and has today announced wide-ranging new protections.

New Parent Dashboard features include:

  • Recent Contacts and Chat History: See 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.
  • Log of Images in Chats: 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 for your child, you can remove it from your child’s message thread and report it.
  • Reported and Blocked Contacts History: Access a list of the reporting and blocking actions your child has taken in the app. You’ll see a list of the contacts your child has blocked and/or unblocked, if they have reported any messages as well as any contacts they’ve reported and the reason for their action. Parents will continue to be notified via Messenger if their child blocks or reports someone.
  • Remote Device Logout: 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. (Note: This feature is not meant to control when kids have access to the app – try Sleep Mode for that.)
  • 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. The download will include a list of your child’s contacts as well as the messages, images and videos they have sent and received. Your child will be notified through the Messenger Kids app when you request this information.

Kids can now unblock a contact they themselves blocked (but not one blocked by parents), and parents will be able to monitor these chats if desired.

Kids also get better informed about the potential privacy issues for them.

As kids start using technology, we think it’s important to help them understand how their information is used and shared. That’s why we developed an in-app activity that uses kid-appropriate language to educate kids on the types of information people can see about them. For example, we inform kids that people they know may see their name and photo, that parents can see and download their messaging content and that they are not able to delete any messages they send or receive.

Basic protections also remain in place.

We don’t use children’s data from Messenger Kids for advertising. There continue to be no ads in Messenger Kids and no in-app purchases. And as the updated privacy policy reaffirms, we don’t sell any of your or your child’s information to anyone, and we never will.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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