Facebook launches messenger for kids under 13

Henrietta Brewer
December 7, 2017

Parents can then create a profile for the child as an extension of their own Facebook account.

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. 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.

Kids will not get a separate Facebook or Messenger account as this will just be an extension of their parent's account.

The Facebook app, Messenger Kids, is a special version of its Messenger app and is designed for kids 6-12.

Facebook has released a new app for Apple devices as of late which has been intended for children.

It's important to understand that kids under 13 still can't sign up for a Facebook account. Google in March introduced "Family Link", which allowed parents to set up kid-friendly Google Accounts.

To give kids and parents a fun, safer solution, we built Messenger Kids, a standalone app that lives on kids' tablets or smartphones but can be controlled from a parent's Facebook account. The device can then be handed over to your child so he or she can start chatting with the family and friends you approve.

Messenger Kids will make sure that the app acts as a stepping stone for the kids to access Messenger and Facebook at a later stage. Facebook says it will only collect minimal amounts of data from Messenger Kids users in an effort to improve the app and will not to sell that data to third parties.

The app is fairly limited in scope, allowing for text and video chat, as well as sending photos and adding add filters or playful drawings to the photos they send. It is free to download and there are no in-app purchases. Every additional friend request requires approval by the parent. "Kid-appropriate" emoji, masks, and sound effects are also included in the app. Messenger Kids is interoperable with the main Messenger app, so adults don't actually have to download the Kids app. "We've been working closely with the FTC so we're lockstep with them".

One thing that might surprise some people is that there's no way for parents to secretly spy on what their kids are saying in their chats. But with technology moving deeper into the home and many firms looking for more growth, children have become a more attractive market. The exception is that if kids report a piece of objectionable content, their parents will be notified but still not shown the content in their own app.

"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. To get there, click on "More" on the bottom right corner in your main Facebook app, and click "Messenger Kids" in the Explore section.

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