Late last year Facebook launched their new product, Facebook Messenger for Kids. Aimed squarely at the under 13 market, it is intended to be a safe, user-friendly app that allows parents and kids to chat with each other. Kids can also chat with any person on the app that is pre-approved by their parents. It does not require signing up for a Facebook account to use.

The amount of time and research put into the development of this app is encouraging. It clearly demonstrates an understanding of the need for privacy and security for kids online. However, it still has drawn criticism from the media and parenting experts.

Many feel that kids between the ages of 6 and 13 shouldn’t have access to social media at all. While Facebook Messenger for Kids is secure, it still promotes screen time at an age with the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended it should be very limited, and school, homework, physical activity, and sleep should take priority.

Furthermore, while this app is secure and requires adult oversight, some consider it a “gateway drug” to the Facebook universe and social media in general. Yes, it does not show ads and no random stranger can message a kid, but what happens at age 13 when kids can convert it to a regular messaging app and Facebook profile?

Since the app is still so new all the benefits and drawbacks remain to be seen. But, no matter how comfortable your kids are with it, be vigilant about oversight and having open-ended discussions regarding social media use. When kids chat with each other - even when approved to chat together by the parents - cyberbullying, sexting, or worse can still occur. At Latch Mobile we are focusing on this very problem - that dangerous activity can happen anywhere no matter how secure you believe your kid’s social media experience to be. Our service is designed to detect these moments and notify the parents so they can address them before there are consequences.