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

Facebook's new chat app for kids makes parents approve conversations

Setting up the app requires an adult with a Facebook account, who can set up the child's profile and the initial list of friends and family members the child will be allowed to connect with on Messenger. First, it keeps children away from Facebook proper, and second, it gives parents complete control over their child's Messenger Kids accounts.

As for why Facebook is launching the app, the company said in email that "many of us at Facebook are parents ourselves, and it seems we weren't alone when we realized that our kids were getting online earlier and earlier", citing an external study from Dubit that found that 93% of six to 12-year-olds in the USA have access to tablets or smartphones.

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. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month, not counting subsidiary apps such as Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram. It lets them do video chats and send photos, videos and texts. The account will be in Messenger Kids app and will automatically migrate to original Messenger account when they turn 13. Parents will have to sign their children up for the service and have to approve any person their children communicate with. This will not create a Facebook account for your child or give them access to your Facebook account. Android users will also get a version of the Messenger Kids at some point in the future. And it only works if the parents of the kids who want to talk via Messenger Kids are friends on Facebook themselves.

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The company spent months talking to parenting groups, child behavioral experts and safety organizations to develop the app, which should be compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act. Oh, and don't worry about ads, child info harvested for ads, installation costs or in-app purchases.

Now the app is only available for iOS, although Android support is expected. And earlier in the year, the company introduced new tools to help parents stay better informed about what their kids are doing within FreeTime, its kid-friendly content service with a special whitelisted selection of games, apps, and books. That means when a child reports a conversation that they find offensive or block an individual user in the app (or vice versa), the parent is notified on Facebook. The social network also is looking at building controls around how much time a child can spend on the app.

Messenger Kids will also allow kids to send GIFs and stickers like the full-fledged Messenger, but will have them choose from a curated selection of age-appropriate materials.

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