How to Use Facebook’s Messenger Kids

Do you talk to kids? Whether you’re a parent of a kid, or you just know kids in your life and want to stay connected, there’s a relatively new way to use our dear friend technology to chat with them.

Commence with the wringing of parental hands.

Click here to jump down to a resource link for how parents can protect kids online.

Big Bang theory breathing into bag
Being a parent is hard.

A Parental Preamble (or just skip to the how-to part)

As a mom, and especially one who uses technology on an almost minute-by-minute basis for work and play, I want my kids to appreciate its power as well as its pitfalls. My kids don’t have their own smartphones yet, but they do have their own laptops. They have their own email addresses, which I monitor closely. We allow them to watch YouTube videos, but we often will play them during common family times so we can ensure the content isn’t too mature for their increasingly aware minds.

My intent as a parent is to balance my support of the kids’ use of technology with a healthy dose of trembling awe. So it was with no small amount of hesitation that I finally ushered us into the realm of Messenger Kids by Facebook.

This post will be rife with my own tones of paranoia and hesitation, which I intentionally left in. The gravity of handing over a new part of the internet to our kids is not (in my humble yet strong opinion) meant to be taken lightly.

OK, here we go.

Go to Messenger Kids to create the account(s).

Facebook has (maybe too) conveniently put Messenger Kids in the Explore section on the left sidebar. You can also go to the Messenger Kids dashboard to get started:

Once there, you’ll be asked to create an account for a child by entering their first and last name. Facebook, likely realizing this is a big step for parents who rightly realize the power of their data access and reach is causing anxiety, tells you up front that this action will not create a Facebook profile for the child.

Next is a screen which reassures you of the control you, as the account creator*, will have over the child’s contacts and content. It also tells you what information Facebook will store from use of this app.

*Notice I didn’t use the word “parent” here. There is no part along this process where the account creator is asked to verify if they are a parent, caregiver, or guardian of the child being added to Messenger Kids. There is only a message at the bottom of the image provided where Facebook indicates this should be a parent or guardian completing this process.

The final screen is a prompt for you to download the Messenger Kids app onto a mobile device. The kid being added must use Messenger Kids from a mobile device, which includes a Kindle reader.

Since my kids don’t have smartphones yet, the Kindle reader is their sole option to use Messenger Kids.

Your final step is to add approved contacts to your child’s Messenger Kids account. You will be able to add Family Members, Other Kids, Your Friends, and you can also invite others to use Messenger to connect with your kid(s). Once you add a contact, that person will receive a Facebook message that your kid is now available for chat.

Getting the Kids Started

Now that the kid’s account has been set up by a parent or guardian (hopefully), the app must be set up on the child’s device(s).

You can download the Messenger Kids app for iOS (Apple), Android, or Kindle (Amazon).

Once the app is installed on the mobile device or reader, you (the account creator) have one final step: you must authorize the use of the app by logging in using your Facebook username and password. This lets Facebook know the child hasn’t tried to set up an account without your permission.

Now you’re ready to hand the device to your kid! They’ll be prompted to take a photo of themselves for their profile image. (My child opted for one of her stuffed animals, which in light of the concerns I wallow in was just fine with me.)

Their home screen is a dashboard of contact tiles, each showing if the person is online and available for messages or even video chats. There are also prompts along the top for taking a picture or starting a group chat.

How Do You Message Kids Who Are On Messenger Kids?

(This was the part I couldn’t figure out until we got the kids full set up on their devices, so make sure you finish those steps first.)

If you’re an adult who has either created or been added to the child’s Messenger Kids account as an approved contact, you will be able to use standalone Messenger (the app or the web version) or Facebook chat to message the kid. You will only be able to do this if the account creator has added you as an approved contact; you will not be able to search for the child’s account to start messaging them. (Whew.)

Your chat with anyone using Messenger Kids appears alongside all of your other Messenger chats, so the interaction is fairly seamless.

You will not need to download the Messenger Kids app to chat with the child who has been set up on the service. That app is solely for the child to use to chat with their approved contacts on Messenger.

How to Manage Messenger Kids for Your Kids

If you created accounts for your children, you will always be able to go to the Dashboard to manage their contacts or delete their account if necessary.

Additionally, Messenger Kids will alert you via Messenger every time someone sends a message to your child’s account. This works the same as any other Messenger chat where you can manage your notifications. As a parent who sees each email my children receive, I like this level of oversight.

Other Messenger Kids Features

  • GIFs and frames for photos
  • Ability for your child or the account creator to report a chat
  • Ability for your child to block anyone they don’t want to chat with

More about the app, its capabilities, and any data information around it can be found on the Messenger Kids website:

Also check out The Ultimate Parent Guide for Protecting Your Child on the Internet

Will you set up your child on Messenger Kids… or have you already? Let me know what you think about it!

Parents, Did We All Make it?

Back to school this year made me achieve this level of restraint.


What got me to this point?

With my oldest getting “silent lunch” with the dean on the 4th day of school, then my education at Back to School Night on how the same child had tried to snow me all week about a procedure with his planner, and finally having to muscle the same child through his homework during breakfast because he had forgotten his math book—which I retrieved for him at that Back to School Night… let’s just say I was DONE.

How is your back to school parenting going? Commiserate. 

Out of the Mouths of Babes. Very Naive Babes.

Today, I was driving my daughter to a place where we could eat dinner while her brother was on a field trip. I was on a call with my dad, she was sleeping in her seat, and we were tooling along the highway through Denver Tech Center. Suddenly, as we passed IKEA (which you can probably spot from Google Earth), her little voice pipes up in the back: “Mom, can we stop by IKEA and get my reading light?”

She had been promised a reading light, just like her brother’s (also acquired at IKEA), for several weeks since she has been able to read consistently. We were in the right place, had enough time, and thus our path was set.

Later, on the way out of IKEA, she told me, “Mom, you’re the best mom ever.” In my usual fashion, I jokingly agreed but then qualified that I’m just a regular person who tries my best, messing up all along the way. Which is when she dropped this gem:

“Mom, I don’t think you ever mess up.”

When I was done chuckling at the hilarity of her statement, I assured her that, while her sentiment was entirely appreciated, I would let her know the very next time I made a mistake. Needless to say, the occasion to do just that arose less than an hour later.

I love that my child can reach levels of satisfaction and happiness to the point where she believes I can do no wrong. But I don’t love it so much that I forget how crucial it is to teach her that to err is so human. If I can teach her and my other child how to handle messing up with grace, I’ll call that really, really good… maybe even worthy of the “best mom ever” badge.

5 Tips to Teach Children How to Use Social Media

Admirable attempts by fellow adults have been made to teach developing minds about the dangerous side of social media. For our kids, who daily seek approval and attention from anyone, social media is all too tempting of an outlet. And if your child has a smartphone, they’re on social media.

If you have or know a child, start teaching them how to use social media:

  1. Show kids how and what you share on social. We’re staring and jabbing at our smartphones each day… Yes, our children are watching and know it must surely be an amazing gadget. Use that rapt attention to let them lean in and watch you compose a post or share a photo on Facebook. Let them make suggestions and guide their choices.
  2. Strangers are online just as they are in real life. Show your child that the person who just liked your photo on Instagram is someone you’ve never met before. Stranger-danger is just as risky online as in real-life; perhaps more so since kids often share too much information with strangers. If you are on social platforms where you often decline requests by strangers to connect, show your child where and explain why.
  3. Mean words hurt just as much. If you’ve been on the receiving end of a less-than-friendly comment, show it to your child. Talk about how it felt to read it. Explain that there is always a real person reacting to every word you post online. Let them watch you compose a comment on someone else’s profile and see how carefully you choose your words. Louis C.K. has a great commentary on why online messages can be so hurtful (not safe for children).
  4. Teach kids how easy it is to save and change content. Find one of your posts and screenshot it. Use a free photo editing tool (most smartphones have one built-in to their camera tool) to crop or adjust the image. Get creative with your manipulation: your goal is to show your kid how easily anyone can grab something on the internet, change it, and re-use it for their own purposes.
  5. If they’re on social media, install the same apps and follow them. Just as you would check their homework or their clothing choices for a social event with friends, check how your child uses social media. Also, you’re entitled and advised to do unannounced checks of their smartphones (especially if your name is on the bill!). If they’re using a new app, download it and get familiar.

*If you don’t know how to do these things, try them out now. Your child, growing up as a digital native, will most certainly learn if you don’t teach them. Be their first and primary source for best practices.

“Use social media. Don’t be used by it.”

Do what you do best for your child: parent them. Show them how to treat others in real life: how to say “please” and “thank you,” how to hold back their honest opinions about someone’s appearance, and how to treat others as they want to be treated. If you’ve done and are doing that well, showing them the capabilities of social media will provide them with a new tool to be a good person rather than a weapon to be a bad one.

What have you tried and learned as a parental user of social media? Share your own tips below; we can help each other help our kids.

Need more help than these 5 tips? Request a training or presentation for your group by Rachel, Really.

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My Kid Just Learned that People Suck.

I knew it would happen sometime.

“The kids in my group made fun of my teeth. And I can’t do anything to change it, so… yeah.”

So begins my son’s experience in the reality that people suck. In his case, it’s little people. Kids, who might otherwise be pretty nice and decent, often lack some inner monologue and certainly any real tact. Somehow in the middle of a physical activity, some words were let loose which my son had to hear. And he hung on to them all the way until bedtime.

He was right.

My son inherited his teeth from his dad and me, so it’s no wonder his teeth are destined for braces. He also has a baby tooth up front that hangs on for dear life and looks funky next to his adult teeth growing in haphazardly. Nothing he can do about that, though eventually we can have them worked on… though that’ll lead to the new fun of “brace-face.”

He was wrong, too.

Trying to make lemons out of lemonade, last night was a good opportunity for a few reasons:

  • I was an open door to my son’s angst, ready to hear whatever he had to say about how he felt.
  • I was a voice of experience which could stand there, in the flesh, to prove that words don’t have to have a lasting effect.
  • I was a redirect to focus him from what he can’t control (his teeth) to what he can (his inner workings and attitudes about what was said to him).

He was honest.

“Mom, that doesn’t help.”

Okay. I think that’s probably true in the immediacy of how he was made to feel. But I still think all of the above might have planted a seed that will serve him well in the disappointments yet to come.

Because, no matter what happens in this world or how my son’s teeth improve, two truths remain.

People suck, and dentistry is a very secure field.

Parenting For The Birds

Today as I was sitting in church between my two youngsters, I found myself observing them through my peripheral and engaging in something truly mental.  As my son had the under-seat bible open on his lap and was making a valiant effort to follow along with the pastor’s reading, my daughter on the flip side had a hymnal book open and was pretending to follow along with what she thought was a song we had just sang.

As the mind often does, it went through a variety of suppositions and assumptions within a matter of nanoseconds:  knowing my son is now in the fast-pace portion of his reader class and has received a few recent paper rewards touting his reading progress, the thought voiced itself, “He might be the reader.”  In like kind, recalling the repeated instances when my daughter has been softly singing to herself made-up songs or her best remembrance of one she has heard before, as well as how intently focused she was this morning on the guest choir, a similar thought rose up:  “She might be the singer.”

This is right about when I almost physically shook myself out of my reverie and would have smacked the back of my own head to immediately cease these careening trains of thought.  Without realizing it, I had entered into the realm of what I term Pigeonhole Parenting.

I gandered at the definition of pigeonhole, and the portion I particularly identified with today was “to classify mentally; categorize.”  That part I found to be fairly innocuous on its face, but then there’s the alternate definition also provided which is likely what made me shudder:  “to put aside and ignore; shelve.”

(If you still need a solid visual on this idea, go ahead and google “pigeonhole.”  I had no idea the term branched into office supplies…and that imagery embedded my angst even further.)

I LOVE my kids and I truly do believe and hope they can be anything they want and try to be.  But by autopiloting myself into a trajectory where I was assigning each kid their respective and assumed label or identity, I could very easily be mapping out a trajectory for them which they might feel they are expected to follow.  “Well, Mom keeps calling me ‘her reader,’ so I’d better focus on that – even though I really enjoy building with my Legos.”  You get the picture.

Look, I’m not saying a reading focus is a bad vector to follow, or that singing and the arts is either.  I’m not even saying that my internal monologue of this morning was some indication that my kids will turn into resentful, one-dimensional teens and then adults who will be filled with regret.  But the better I can be at catching myself in these deliberations before giving them voice or action gives my kids a better shot at really being all they can be – and even more than I can visualize.