Facebook has a version of Messenger for kids - and months after launching on iOS, it's now available on Android.

Appropriately called Messenger Kids, it’s a relatively new messaging app designed specifically for children between the ages of six and 12. It does not require a Facebook account, which makes sense, considering US federal law says children under the age of 13 can’t have a Facebook account. At launch, kids could only use it on a iPad or iPhone, but now, kids can use it on their Android mobile device, too.

Anyway, here’s what you need to know about it.

Facebook spoke to “thousands of parents”, as well as associations like the National PTA and various parenting experts, and it found a need for a children’s messaging app with parental controls. Enter: Messenger Kids. Facebook described the standalone app as an easier way for children to “safely video chat and message with family and friends when they can’t be together in person”.

Kids can use it to video chat with a grandparent or message a cousin or send a decorated photo to a friend. The app itself is controlled through a parent’s Facebook account, and it does not require the child to have an actual Facebook account.

Messenger Kids is full of features just for kids.

They can start a one-on-one or group video chat with parent-approved contacts - directly from the home screen. They’ll be able to see when their contacts are online, and then they can send them photos, videos, or text messages. Kids can also access a library of child-appropriate GIFs, frames, stickers, masks, and drawing tools. Adult friends will receive their messages via the regular Facebook Messenger app.

First, download the Messenger Kids app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Facebook has confirmed that Messenger Kids will be available for Android devices starting 14 February, but as of press time, we do not yet see a listing in the Android app store.

Anyway, once you download the app on your child's device, you need to authenticate your child’s iOS device using your own Facebook username and password. Once that’s done, you’ll need to create a Messenger Kids account for your child (all you need to do is provide their name - no other data is requested). At that point, your child’s device can be handed back to them so that they can start using Messenger Kids.

No. Your child does not need a Facebook account, or even a regular Facebook Messenger account, though you will need to create a Messenger Kids account for your child, which only requires their name.

To access the parental controls panel for Messenger Kids, go to the main Facebook app on your device, then click on “More” on the bottom right corner, followed by “Messenger Kids” in the Explore section. From there, you will see all the available controls, such as the ability to add people to your child’s approved contact list. Other parental controls include account creation, blocking, reporting, and account deletion.

Messenger Kids added a sleep mode in 2018. It allows parents to set predetermined “off times” for the app on a child’s device. When parents set a designated off time, each day at the designated time, the app will “go to sleep” and not be accessible to kids during those hours. Sleep mode is controlled from the Parent Control center.

  1. Go to the Messenger Kids controls in your Facebook app. Tap on your child’s name, and then tap on “Sleep Mode” in the App Controls section.
  2. Set the times you want the app to turn off for your child.
  3. That's it. When the app is in sleep mode, kids cannot send or receive messages or video calls, play with the camera, or receive notifications. If they try to open the app, they’ll see a message telling them that it’s in sleep mode.

Parents can access all of their controls from the Messenger Kids controls in the main Facebook app. From there, you can also add and remove contacts, delete the child’s account, or create a new account right from the control panel.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood sent a letter to Facebook describing its concerns with the app and recommended that the company discontinue it. The organisation has yet to receive a response from Facebook. As a result, the CCFC has said it finds "it disturbing that Facebook, in the face of widespread concern, is aggressively marketing Messenger Kids to even more children."

No. There are no adverts in Messenger Kids. Facebook also said your child’s information won’t be used for adverts.

Messenger Kids is free and there are no in-app purchases.

At launch, Facebook released a preview of Messenger Kids, meaning it’s an early version of the app with limited availability. Right now, it is only available in the US on the Apple App Store and should be available on the Google Play Store by 14 February.

Visit messengerkids.com or check out Facebook’s blog post.