Facebook's Messenger Kids lets under-13s chat with parent-approved contacts

Bulgaria Facebook Launches a Version of Messenger For Young Children

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After talking to thousands of parents, associations like National PTA, and parenting experts in the U.S., we found that there's a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want. The social network incorporated a chat feature in 2008 before ultimately releasing its hallmark Messenger app in 2011, and in April that platform boasted 1.2 billion users. The parents will then be prompted to create a Messenger Kids account for their kid. This preview is available on the App Store for iPad, iPod touch and iPhone.

Just as vocal are parents such as Parker Thompson of Alameda, California, who said children's adoption of technology is an inevitability and who appreciated Facebook's approach with the new app. So 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 the people who were going to use it, as well as experts who could help guide our thinking. He says the idea of giving parents control over Messenger Kids is good.

The signup process needs nothing more than the name of the child.

"While we appreciate Facebook taking steps to protect this vulnerable population by including parental controls, establishing an ad-free environment, and restricting some data collection, we remain concerned about where sensitive information collected through this app could end up and for what goal it could be used", they wrote. Amazon has also added kid-focused "skills" to its Echo smart speakers, which require a parent's permission to activate.

The social network says the app has been created to enable children to "safely" video chat and message friends and family, and has been developed in consultation with parents and safety experts. "Kid-appropriate" emoji, masks, and sound effects are also included in the app.

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It's important to understand that kids under 13 still can't sign up for a Facebook account. Parents fully control the contact list and kids can't connect with contacts that their parent does not approve. So, parents can get full access on Facebook, while their children can befriend them on Messenger Kids and even play together.

Lavallee, who is content strategist at the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard University, called Messenger Kids a useful tool that makes parents the gatekeepers.

Facebook said it developed the app after speaking with thousands of parents, major parental groups and child development experts. Though at present, Facebook has no interest in converting the Messenger Kids account into a Facebook account when they turn 13. After this, the device can be handed back to the child, and they can start chatting by using Messenger Kids.

Facebook's new messaging app meant specifically for children ages 6 through 12 has raised privacy and security concerns among a couple Senate Democrats. To get there, click on "More" on the bottom right corner in your main Facebook app, and click "Messenger Kids" in the Explore section. Messenger Kids, meanwhile, is a result of seeing what kids like, which is images, emoji and the like.

But, he said it remains to be seen whether the app will continue to stay ad-free.

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