How safe is your child? App of the month offers a degree of protection

The virtual world is a frightening place with dangers that many parents are unaware of, and children are unequipped to deal with. A way to venture into the ‘shallow end’ of the pool of internet life is offered by Messenger Kids, which offers connectivity with control, and appears to be well worth a look for parents wondering how to get their children online safely…

The biggest bugbear of children chatting online is the disquiet felt by parents who have nagging doubts about who their children are talking to online.

Those doubts appear to be removed by Messenger Kids, which offers freedom with defined limits.

Let’s look at the issues that bother parents, and how they are dealt with by Messenger Kids. For a start, it is rated ‘3’ by PEGI, the Pan European Game Information standard, which means it is appropriate for children over three years old.

  1. I don’t know who my child is connecting with. You can do, because every contact has to be approved by you
  2. I’ve become bothered about a particular contact. You have the power to remove it
  3. There’s too much use of apps like this. OK; limit the time by using a sleep mode to make the app inactive
  4. Children can still delete or hide messages I haven’t seen. No, they can’t. They don’t disappear, and can’t be hidden. You can check in and see the real picture
  5. Cost is a problem. Not really. It’s free to download, and there are no adverts and no opportunities for in-app purchases
  6. I don’t want my child’s phone number shared. It won’t be. The app needs only a WiFi connection.

Messenger Kids accounts are ‘satellites’ of the Messenger function within Facebook accounts of parents or guardians, and are set up through those Facebook accounts without creating a stand-alone one for the child.

The app offers children the opportunity to report or block contacts, or to report inappropriate content. When they do, the parent or guardian is notified.

On the upside, the app allows age appropriate stickers, emojis and gifs to be created and added, and it includes a camera which can be used to create videos and pictures to share – but of course parents are able to see what they’re doing at any time.

It has so far been downloaded and installed more than half a million times, and works on all tablets and smartphones.