According to Facebook, Messenger Kids is a "fun messaging and video chat app" that is designed for kids aged 13 and under to "connect with their friends and family in a safer, more controlled environment."
However, this week it was revealed that a massive flaw in the social network's design has exposed children who use it to unapproved individuals via group chats.
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The appeal of the Kids version is that children are only able to connect with parent-approved contacts, which creates a more controlled environment. The bug however allowed users to sidestep this feature in group chats, and put strangers in direct contact with kids.
Facebook hasn't yet made a public announcement, but confirmed to The Verge that it is true.
The social network has spent the last few days shutting down group chats and alerting parents with a message reading:
"Hi [PARENT], We found a technical error that allowed [CHILD]’s friend [FRIEND] to create a group chat with [CHILD] and one or more of [FRIEND]’s parent-approved friends. We want you to know that we’ve turned off this group chat and are making sure that group chats like this won’t be allowed in the future. If you have questions about Messenger Kids and online safety, please visit our Help Center and Messenger Kids parental controls. We’d also appreciate your feedback."
While Messenger Kids isn't yet available in South Africa, this bug serves as a warning that even digital tools designed to keep kids safe are fallible, and it's better to always keep an eye on what your kids are up to online.
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