Parenting is a harrowing experience. Some days we feel like we’ve conquered the world when our babies reach milestones and surpass expectations. Other days it feels like a dog-eat-dog world and we as parents are the miniature pinscher. We coddle them through the tender infant and toddler years, and wonder at their infinite greatness as they learn to read, ride a bike, make friends and grow to be taller than you.
Then, one quick day, they are teenagers and you panic thinking of the short years that remain with them still in your home. Throughout all of it, you worry over all of their disappointments, challenges and difficult life lessons and you hope that in the end, the net result of years of child/parent relationships will be favorable and they will be happy. This generation of parents has an enemy that has become our child’s best friend. As if parenting wasn’t difficult enough, along came the smartphone.
As a parent of middle-schoolers I am terrified at the range of information that is available to my children. Growing up before the internet provided an innocence to my life that my kids are missing out on. When my oldest son was around four-years-old and playing a superhero game on my laptop a sketchy website allowed porn to pop up and I was mortified. That was the first time the gravity of the internet and its negative power on my kids hit me. Fast forward to today and I am constantly scouring their phones to make sure they are interacting with people they know and that creepers are being kept at bay. It is an ongoing and terrifying process, partly because this is new territory for me yet my children are technically-savvy so, with humor, I have to ask them to show me how to look through their devices.
I recently came across an interesting app that is providing peace of mind to parents as they allow their children to video chat with approved loved ones and friends. Messenger Kids is a great tool for parents to navigate the choppy waters of children and technology. This innovative app allows children the freedom and fun to add cute masks, reactions, and sound effects to videos without the need for their own Facebook page. Parents decide who the kids can connect with and messages can never be hidden like other pesky social media sites. The Thomason’s, a local Sarasota family, were contacted by Messenger Kids after they began using the app, and were invited to appear in their kickoff campaign. We spoke briefly with Brett Thomason about the significance of Messenger Kids and what this process has been like for them.
SP: Can you tell us about your family and what prompted you to try Messenger Kids?
BT: My wife and I have two daughters, Isla (7) and Cora (3). Isla was already using an iPad or one of our phones to text her grandparents, so when Messenger Kids came out last year, we downloaded and installed it to test it out. It is a safer way to communicate because it allows you to pick the people that she is allowed to talk to, and also allows us to control some settings, like the time she is allowed to be on it. I also have the Messenger Kids app on my phone so at any time I can pull it up and see the conversations.
SP: How did the process work in partnering with Messenger Kids?
BT: The Messenger Kids team reached out to me after they knew we used it, and decided to ask us some questions about it. Turns out they wanted to film us too, and how our older daughter uses it daily to talk to family and a few friends. The filming process was incredible, and so professional. We have our own YouTube Channel and Facebook Watch Channel, called Thomason Family, so Isla is used to being filmed by myself, but this was a complete crew there for us, and it was so awesome.
Brett Thomason is a Technical Coordinator for Sarasota Academy of the Arts. You can check out his family’s videos at youtube.com . For more information on Messenger Kids, please visit their FB page here.
Photos courtesy of Messenger Kids