Why Facebook launched a Messenger app for kids

05 December, 2017, 02:16 | Author: Marjorie Miles
  • Facebook's new chat app for kids makes parents approve conversations

Messenger Kids is launching in preview today for iPhone and iPad users in the us and will be targeting 6 to 13-year-olds with a child-friendly alternative to the main Messenger app. Parents have to use their own Facebook credentials to authenticate a device for use with the new Messenger Kids app, and parents have full and final say over who the kid is able to connect with through Messenger.

A new report from TechCrunch says the free app is aimed at kids under 13, who can't yet have their own accounts under Facebook's rules, though they often do.

There already are a handful of other apps that children can use with parental consent, and kids can communicate with each other using texting on cellpones.

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Messenger for Kids launched Monday and is now only available through the Apple App Store, with Amazon and Google Play appearing "in the coming months", the Facebook press release said.

Facebook notes that once users turn 13, they won't be automatically be migrated to the full-scale messenger, nor will a Facebook account automatically be created for them. The narrowed app was designed after consultation with hundreds of parents and several children's advocates, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Facebook said. It's heavy on visuals and includes video chat and group video chat options.

Also, unlike the regular version of Facebook, children under 13 on the app won't have Facebook accounts associated with their app. Facebook's current policy doesn't let individuals under 13 create accounts. Kids can only message other Facebook users approved by the adult. If two children want to be friends with each other, each will have to get parental approval for contact.

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Messenger Kids, which is rolling out in the United States in the Apple app store, is a standalone product. The company says the application is compatible with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act. The app was 18 months in development, Svensson said. That's a departure from Facebook's approach in the past, as when it required users to download the separate Messenger app in 2014 in order to send direct messages on Facebook.

Facebook has also built special detection tools to detect abusive content on the platform. It will be soon available for Android and Amazon Kindle devices. 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.

Facebook also said that it will block children from sharing nudity, sexual or violent content, and have a dedicated moderation team to respond to flagged content.

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