Facebook targets pre-teens with chat app

Facebook targets pre-teens with chat app

Facebook targets pre-teens with chat app

Feeding into that, this week Facebook rolled out a privacy-focused app called Messenger Kids that is available for children younger than 13.

The signup process needs nothing more than the name of the child. Facebook has been working on Messenger Kids for the last 18 months, working closely with child development experts, educators, parents, and organizations including the National PTA and Blue Star Families.

Sens. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyNet neutrality supporters predict tough court battle over FCC's repeal plan Avalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign Driverless auto bill hits Senate speed bump MORE (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who are both members of the Senate Commerce Committee, expressed their concerns in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday. "They want their child to have fun and explore, but they want to know that they're safe", she said.

Parental control doesn't end at the inception of the account; contacts can only be added if mum, dad or the relevant guardian say so. "It's just like setting up a play date", Davis said.

The app also makes sure that it complies with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act.

In the previous years, companies were unable to target children thanks to COPPA protections that prevents firms from collecting data of children under 13. However, experts estimate millions of children under 13 may already be on Facebook after using false information to sign up.

"It's a very lucrative market; companies want to capture these people, these children, so they can keep them throughout their lives", said Kathryn Montgomery, a communications professor at American University and one of the main advocates who helped get COPPA passed.

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It is also because of this law that children under 13 years of age can not legally have a fully-featured Facebook account. Google in March introduced "Family Link", which allowed parents to set up kid-friendly Google Accounts. Every additional friend request requires approval by the parent.

The move seems created to lure kids to the app before they try Facebook rival Snapchat, which is popular with teens. Bazarova, who writes more about the launch of Messenger Kids in this Medium story, recommends building a "Family Media Use Plan" to ensure kid's safety and healthy development as it relates to digital media.

Like any business, Facebook's goals shouldn't be viewed as entirely altruistic, even if Messenger Kids is free to download and use. It will also not use data from Messenger Kids for Facebook ads.

The app connects to a parent's Facebook account, allowing them to control who their child can talk to and monitor conversations. Parents can then create a profile for the child as an extension of their own Facebook account. "Right now for kids, the time they spend on devices is very passive", David Marcus, vice president of messaging products at Facebook, told The New York Times.

The company also said it would not automatically move users to the regular Messenger app or Facebook service after they turn 13. Please specify these vendors and services providers and for what purposes the information is being shared.

"Is there a setting for parents to prevent a child from going from this app to browsing the internet?", they asked.

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