Facebook is rolling out its Messenger Kids app to more than 70 countries, offering a parent-controlled space for children to stay connected with family and friends via text, photos, and video. New features also make it easier to find and engage with friends on the platform.
“Parents have told us they want to be able to give their kids more independence in managing their contact list while still maintaining parental supervision,” Antigone Davis, global head of safety at Facebook, wrote in a blog announcement. Previously, parents had to invite and approve every contact for their child. New Supervised Friending, however, allows kids to accept, reject, add, and remove contacts at their will—with an override capacity, of course. Guardians are notified through Messenger, and can override new connections through the Parent Dashboard.
“This is a powerful opportunity and teachable moment for parents to have a conversation with their kids about the life-long skill of choosing one’s friends, both face-to-face and online,” Dr. Lewis Bernstein, a member of Facebook’s Youth Advisors, said in a statement. “In addition to allowing parents more ways to manage their child’s messaging experience, Supervised Friending develops kids’ autonomy to decide who they do or don’t want to connect with, while parents can observe, provide guidance, and step in as necessary.”
Facebook now invites people to approve a teacher, coach, or “similar adult” to help connect children through a group in Messenger Kids, where members can chat together or individually. The Supervised Friending function, available today in the US, is coming soon to the rest of the world.
“Successful distance learning depends not only on educational content, but social emotional support as well,” according to Kathleen Lucchesi, Khan Academy Teacher Ambassador and math department chair at McCaffrey Middle School in California. “As a teacher, I know my students are missing their friends and daily classroom interactions. I’m excited to use this new feature to help my kids have fun, stay connected, and build camaraderie virtually.”
Meanwhile, parents in the US, Canada, and Latin America can now make their kid’s name and profile photo visible to friends of contacts and their guardians, offspring of parents’ Facebook friends, and the children of those the parent invites to download Messenger Kids.