We have been using Facebook’s Messenger Kids for a while now. I love using it to communicate with my children for a few reasons. First, my Husband is not allowed to bring his phone to his job. He is able to access Facebook from the work computer, and thus using Messenger Kids is the only way my children can talk to their Dad while he is away at work. He definitely feels less disconnected from them through the app.
The other reason I love using Messenger Kids is due to the fact I had to put time limits on my Daughter’s SMS texting app. Since my Daughter is 12 she does not have access to social media accounts, and neither do her friends. They exclusively text, a LOT. I finally had to give her a time limit on texting through the parental control app Boomerang. If I need to get a hold of her, I can’t text her, especially if she has run out of time for the day. I needed a solution that could be locked down to only message family members, so I could enable it to use at all times.
My only current complaint is that my children can send me GIFs, but I can’t send them GIFs when I’m using the regular Facebook Messenger to communicate with them. What’s up with that? GIFs are the bomb.
New Messenger Kids feature: Sleep Mode
Facebook recently announced new parental control features for Messenger Kids, including a sleep mode. Since my kids love to chat with each other (even from different rooms in the house) through Messenger Kids, it’s nice to know that I can shut it off automatically after a certain time. Also, my Son, who loves to chat with his Aunt and Cousins through the app needs to realize that not everyone wants a message at 6 AM. This new feature will definitely help curtail this behavior.
However, since we use Messenger Kids as our primary method of communication when my husband and I go out on dates, we need to be careful about what times the sleep mode activates. One night my daughter couldn’t get a hold of us because everything on her phone was blocked after a certain time. By the time we arrived home, she was completely distraught. I would love for the feature to include allowing specific contacts to be accessed even during the sleep mode.
How to Use Sleep Mode
1) Go to the Messenger Kids controls in the main Facebook app. Tap on the child’s name, and then on “Sleep Mode” in the App Controls section.
2) Set the times you want the app to turn off for your child. You can set different times for weekdays versus weekends. Once you set the limits, the child will not be able to use the app during those hours.
3) Have a conversation with your child. When you’re setting boundaries around the use of technology, it may be helpful to have a conversation with your child to make sure you have a mutual understanding of the ground rules. This could be a good time to let them know that you’re setting limits for them on Messenger Kids. For more guidance and resources, visit the Parents Portal at facebook.com/safety/parents.
4) Let sleep mode do its job. When the app is in sleep mode, kids cannot send or receive messages or video calls, play with the creative camera, or receive notifications. If they try to open the app, they’ll see a message telling them that it’s in sleep mode and to come back later.
Are you using Facebook’s Messenger Kids? Do you like it?
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Sarah Kimmel is a digital parenting coach and family tech expert. She has spent the last 16 years of her career as a Microsoft Certified IT Manager supporting over 100 small businesses. During that time she started Family Tech LLC to help families understand and manage the technology in their home. She has regularly appeared as a family tech expert on KSL News, BYUtv and Studio 5, and has been invited all over the world from tech companies like Lenovo, Verizon, Microsoft, Dell, and Samsung. Find out more on her website SarahKimmel.com