When parents put Messenger Kids to sleep, their kids can’t chat


Facebook critics who want its controversial Messenger Kids app to go away altogether are unlikely to be satisfied. But Facebook is adding a “sleep mode” parental controls feature, which allows adults to set designated daily “off times” when Messenger Kids falls asleep.

During these times, your child cannot send or receive in-app messages, participate in video calls, play with the camera, or receive notifications. And if your child tries to open the app while it is in sleep mode, he or she will see a message telling him or her to come back later.

The child will receive a warning 10 minutes before the activation of the standby mode so that he can end all the conversations in progress.

Sleep mode is Messenger Kids’ last parental control. Others let mom or dad add or remove contacts their kids can communicate with in the app, remove the kid’s account, or create a new account.

Such parental controls live in a parent’s main Facebook app; for now, however, only one parent has access to such controls inside Facebook.

Sleep mode has at least one major drawback. A parent can configure the app to automatically fall asleep only once a day, choosing different times, such as weekdays and weekends. But while an adult can manually put the app to sleep at other times of the day – at mealtimes or homework times, for example – they can’t schedule the app to sleep. nap more than once a day.

Before imposing such limits, Facebook urges parents to set limits and have conversations with their children.

Facebook has come under fire since Messenger Kids launched for iOS in December. (Amazon and Android versions arrived later.) Critics criticized the social network for trying to lure children under 13 to the app before young people joined a Facebook rival such as Snapchat. . And it is claimed that these kids are too young to handle or fully grasp social media.

Facebook was also asked for provide donations or financial assistance to some of the advisors who have supported Messenger Kids.

And of course, Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg have been in the crosshairs since the social network revealed that 87 million Facebook users information was improperly shared with political targeting company Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook claims that very little data is collected in the Messenger Kids app and that the data collected is for operational purposes or to ensure a good experience within the app. Facebook insists that it does not share Messenger Kids data with external parties.

The social network adds that Messenger Kids does not have advertising and does not allow in-app purchases. Parents can also check their child’s text exchanges to make sure there is nothing inappropriate during chats with children.

But Josh Golin, executive director of the nonprofit campaign for an ad-free childhood, told USA TODAY via email that “While there are improvements Facebook could make (for example, by promising that the The application will always be ad-free, specifying exactly which third parties have access to data collected from children who use the application, clearly indicating that data collected from children will not be used for marketing purposes even after age age 13), in the end, our biggest concerns can only be allayed by pulling on the app.

His reasoning: “We don’t want to standardize a Facebook product for young children who are not developmentally ready for the interpersonal and privacy challenges of social media. We also don’t want children’s friendships to evolve online at this age. “

Golin was not aware of the sleep mode feature in advance when he made these comments.

Facebook defends Messenger Kids by saying that about nine in ten children in the United States who are under 13 have access to a phone or tablet; two out of three children have theirs. And Facebook says it has spoken to thousands of parents who find it helpful for their child to connect with family and friends through an app, provided they get the proper parental controls.

Following: Childhood experts ask Facebook to remove Messenger Kids app

Following: Apple still makes it too hard to get kids to put down their iPhones

Following: Kids were rude to Alexa, so Amazon updated her

Email: ebaig@usatoday.com; Follow USA TODAY Personal Technical Columnist @edbaig on Twitter

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