Facebook recently launched an updated version of its Messenger Kids app with the goal of making it easier for kids to interact with their friends and family, navigate the app, and personalize their experience with features such as custom chat bubble colors. The new design also gives the kid-friendly app a look and feel that is more like Messenger itself.
The updated app does away with the larger, colorful blocks that would flash when messages arrive for a more traditional messaging app design where chats are stacked in a vertical list. The child’s unread messages, now at the top of the inbox, are in bold with a blue dot next to them to call the eye’s attention. Media and message previews have also been added, allowing kids to more easily see updates for their conversations.
The redesign introduces new navigation with dedicated “Chat” and “Explore” navigation tabs at the bottom of the screen, allowing kids to switch between their conversations and the other in-app activities that the app offers, such as their Minigames.
And with a new swipe gesture, kids can initiate a call from their inbox.
Finally, the update introduces a new option to customize conversations, including individual and group chats, with a custom chat bubble color.
Facebook is calling the update a “ test, ” but the changes here aren’t minor changes to the layout, navigation, or feature set – they’re a makeover. That makes it less likely that this is just an experiment that will be later rolled back based on user feedback. Instead, by referring to it as a test, Facebook is giving itself more time before committing to a global rollout.
The company says the new features will be available for the first time to kids using iPhones in the US and Canada. The update will be expanded to other devices and markets later in the coming months.
The changes come shortly after Messenger received a significant update of its own, including a visual makeover and new features, including support for chat themes, custom reactions, selfie stickers, and escape mode, as well as crossover between apps with Instagram users. Those updates could have led to the Messenger Kids makeover as well, given that there is likely some underlying messaging infrastructure being shared here.
Parents should be aware that these days this app collects a lot of personal information including names, profile pictures, demographic details (gender and date of birth), connection of a child with parents, information about contacts (zoom, kitchen, identical identifiers), data from device settings (such as time zones or access to camera in photos), network information, and information from things like bug reports or feedback / contact forms. While some of this is what keeps the app functioning properly, there are also concerns from some parents about how this data is actually used.
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