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

Isaac Cain
December 5, 2017

Messenger Kids is launching in preview today for iPhone and iPad users in the USA 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.

Teens might be migrating to new social media platforms these days, but Facebook thinks it can reach an even younger demographic-kids as young as six-with a new app called Messenger Kids. From there, parents will be able to add and remove contacts to a child's account. According to Facebook, 93% of 6- to 12-year-old children in the US have access to smartphones and tablets, with about 80% of children in that same age range getting their first taste of social media, too.

The app, called Messenger Kids, allows users under the age of 13 to send texts, videos and photos; they can draw on the pictures they send and add stickers. More than 2 billion people use Facebook every month, not counting subsidiary apps such as Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram. No data from Messenger Kids will be fed to the main social network, nor will their information automatically port to other Facebook products when they turn 13, the company said.

To target kids, you need to target the parents - and that's what Facebook is doing now with Messenger.

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Messenger Kids may be completely separate from Facebook's other apps, but a lot of the parental management happens through Facebook.

Messenger Kids, which is rolling out in the United States in the Apple app store, is a standalone product. "A website operator must include in a privacy policy, when and how to seek verifiable consent form a parent and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children's privacy and safety online". The reasoning behind this, says Facebook, is to avoid forcing parents and other relatives to download an extra app. It will be soon available for Android and Amazon Kindle devices. And approved adults can chat with the child using regular Messenger. Parents shouldn't, for example, see an ad for a toy on Facebook because their child talked about it on Messenger Kids. 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.

"They're finally coming to grips with the fact that a service, which was created for college kids, is now being used by everyone", he said. Melanie Hempe, of Families Managing Media, a company dedicated to helping families instill good technology and social media habits, told the Daily News that kids as young as 6 should not be using social media.

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