Facebook Introduces Messenger Kids, A Chat App For Kids Under 13

05 December, 2017, 01:54 | Author: Becky Perry
  • Facebook has a team of around 100 employees building products for teens and kids

The app, which does not require a phone number for making an account, rules out the possibility of anyone outside the contact list from connecting with the kid. It's completely independent of the flagship Facebook and Messenger apps, and is compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act. Facebook plans to release Android and Amazon versions next year.

Facebook said it had "thought-provoking conversations" around parent controls and responsible online communication with organizations such as National PTA and Blue Star Families in shaping the app.

The social network giant said children between the ages of 6 and 11 are most likely to gravitate toward the standalone app, raising concerns about its safety in the hands of such youngsters.

Messenger Kids is an app where kids can talk or text with family or friends, allowing parents to control the experience through their Facebook account.

Right now, you can only do that in a feature-crippled Messenger Kids app available as a preview on U.S. iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches, but a Google Play and Amazon App Store expansion will definitely happen "in the coming months", and the general concept might be something worth exploring for the larger Facebook platform as well. Plus, it's FUN for kids to use!

When launching Messenger Kids, children will see a home screen that shows the contacts they can communicate with and when they're online. Messages in the app can't disappear or be hidden either, so parents can still keep tabs on what's being said to their children.

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"Many of us at Facebook are parents, and naturally we're thinking about technology's role in the lives of children and families", Antigone Davis, Facebook's Public Policy Director and Global Head of Safety, wrote in an article in Facebook's Newsroom addressing the new Messenger app. The child will not have his or her own Facebook account.

"There's really a gap in the market for a messaging app for kids that also gives parents control", Facebook spokeswoman Lauren Svensson said.

Kristelle Lavallee, a children's psychology expert who advised Facebook on designing the service, called it a "useful tool" but also noted, "The risk of exposure to things they were not developmentally prepared for is huge". It's a restrictive system, but one that highlights how tricky it is to give children access to social media, and particularly an app that's operated by one of the world's largest (and most controversial) social media firms.

"I think it's very important that parents know who their kids are talking to".

Underage users will not be automatically moved to the regular Messenger or Facebook accounts when they become old enough, the company said.

The Messenger Kids app on an iPad. Facebook won't migrate kids over to its "adult" apps when children reach that age, but it's easy to see that happening on its own.

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