Facebook launches parent-controlled Messenger app for kids

Randall Craig
December 5, 2017

Messenger Kids is a training wheels version of its full-fledged product - which will allow children to exchange messages and photos with friends and family as well as video chats.

And Facebook indicated that it won't use Messenger Kids to monetize children directly - there won't be any ads or in-app purchases.

The Internet can be a scary, risky place for children, even when parents go to great lengths to control what content, videos, apps and games their offsprings are allowed to access on specially designed tablets and wearable devices. Facebook's app is designed for users under the age of 13.

With more than one billion users, Facebook's Messenger app requires little introduction for most people reading this. It's heavy on visuals and includes video chat and group video chat options.

Neither of the Fountas children - 6-year-old son Jack does not have an account - have smart phones so the Messenger app gives them a fun way to talk with their out-of-state grandmother, Fountas said. This, combined with the fact that parents have to approve each of their children's contacts, should prevent phony accounts from appearing on the platform, a practice that's become a huge problem for Facebook. The child does not have a Facebook account, which is prohibited for those under 13; instead the app operates as an extension of the parent's account. The company, in its post, said the kids can have access to social media with parental control.

Today, we're excited to introduce Messenger Kids, a new app that makes it easier for kids to safely video chat and message with family and friends when they can't be together in person.

Facebook's move is the latest from a tech behemoth to show how companies are confronting the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

The app, which is rolling out as a preview to iOS with Android coming later, is only available in the U.S. for the timebeing. It will be soon available for Android and Amazon Kindle devices.

The social network giant said children between the ages of 6 and 11 are most likely to gravitate toward the standalone app, raising concerns about its safety in the hands of such youngsters.

But most importantly, Facebook is giving parents total control over how their children use the app and with whom they can communicate.

Sensing it could face criticism for developing a product that would help convert kids to regular Facebook users after they turn thirteen, Facebook cleverly prepared a defense in advance, notes The Verge.

Facebook also said that it will block children from sharing nudity, sexual or violent content, and have a dedicated moderation team to respond to flagged content. The app has kids friendly masks, frames, stickers and GIFs for interactive conversations.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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