Facebook’s controversial Messenger Kids app now allows youth to initiate their own friend requests using a process that still requires a parent’s approval. The under-13 messaging app recently added an option that allows users to ask their parents to add a new friend to the platform by using a passphrase. The latest Messenger Kids update began rolling out on Monday, August 13.
The feature generates a unique passphrase for each child. The potential friend must enter that code in order to initiate a friend request. The parents of both kids need to approve the request before the two users are connected on the platform.
By generating a passcode, Facebook likely aims to prevent unwanted friend requests while still simplifying the process of adding friends on the platform. Since both parents need to approve the request, the update doesn’t alter the rules Messenger Kids already had in place.
What the update does is simplify friend requests, particularly in instances where the parents aren’t also friends. Before the update, parents had to invite other parents in order for the kids to connect on the kid-friendly app. (Messenger Kids also originally required the parents of both kids to be friends before connecting on the platform, a rule that changed earlier this year.) Messenger Kids still requires parents to have a Facebook account, but the update may help simplify friend requests.
The passcode friend request is an optional feature that defaults to off — which means if parents don’t go in and change the Messenger Kids settings, nothing has changed. Turning the feature on could lead to less pestering to add a friend and a shorter process.
The update follows changes earlier this year that allows parents to set a Sleep Mode, which locks kids out during certain times of the day or allows parents to limit how much time kids spend using the app.
Messenger Kids is designed to allow kids to interact under parental supervision while reaching users younger than Facebook’s minimum signup age of 13. Critics of the app cite the increasing time kids are spending on mobile devices, as well as features like the way the app indicates to approved friends who’s online and who’s not.