Facebook Launches 'Messenger Kids' For Under-13 Users

Facebook Launches 'Messenger Kids' For Under-13 Users

Facebook Launches 'Messenger Kids' For Under-13 Users

This experience is tailored to devices that are given to kids, not the smartphones or tablets that parents use, which may already have a Messenger app installed.

When kids chat with contacts that use the regular version of Facebook Messenger, like parents or relatives, their exchanges will appear as a normal message thread in the Messenger app for the recipient.

The Messenger Kids app on an iPad.

"When we heard about the need for better apps directly from parents during research and conversations with parents, we knew we needed to develop it alongside with the people who were going to use it, as well as experts who could help guide our thinking", Cheng said in a statement. "They want a level of control over their kids' digital world that is similar to the level they have in the real world", says Facebook's public policy director Antigone Davis. 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. Only parents will be able to add friends or delete messages. The company also says Messenger Kids won't show ads or collect data for marketing. 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. However, several reports have surfaced showing inappropriate videos streaming through to kids.

Facebook said the app will not feature in-app purchases or ads nor will the child's information be used for ads. But first, kids must get a parental approval. It's completely independent of the flagship Facebook and Messenger apps, and is compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act. It will be soon available for Android and Amazon Kindle devices.

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Facebook said it consulted with 1200 parents plus online security and child development specialists, including the National Parent-Teacher Association, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Connect Safely, Center on Media and Child Health, and Sesame Workshop.

Facebook's child-friendly venture comes as other tech companies like YouTube struggle with kid content on their platform. Facebook has been focusing on capturing younger users as it faces competition from Snapchat.

It's worth noting here that Facebook itself remains closed to those under 13 years of age.

Facebook has taken a few more steps to ensure that Messenger Kids is not plagued with any loopholes. The social networking giant also made it clear that Messenger Kids accounts would not transition into a usual Facebook account when a child turns 13. 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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