Facebook Launches New Messenger Kids App

Posted by at 11:08 am on December 5, 2017

On Monday, Facebook rolled out its new Messenger Kids app for iOS devices for kids as young as six years old. Parents can download the app on their kids’ smartphones or tablets, and create profiles for them before letting them send text messages and video chat with parent-approved family and friends in the Facebook universe.

“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,” Facebook product management director Loren Cheng wrote in a blog post announcing the new app.

Facebook’s announcement was adamant that Messenger Kids does not create a Facebook account for children, and only parents can approve family members and other kids to be added to their own child’s contact list. Parents who download the standalone messaging app for their children are able to closely monitor who their kids are chatting with, and only parents are able to update and manage their kids’ contact lists from the app’s parental controls panel through the parents’ primary Facebook app.

Once parents set up the app, their children can open Messenger Kids and see a list of their approved contacts, as well as which ones are currently online. They can send texts to those contacts, or start a video chat, while also choosing from a kid-friendly selection of emoji, GIFs, frames, stickers, masks, and tools for drawing doodles in the app.

The Messenger Kids app is aimed at kids between the ages of 6 and 12, Facebook told reporters on Monday, and that age range opens up a new demographic of younger users that Facebook can now get started on a Facebook-branded product years before they might be old enough to actually create their own official Facebook account. Considering Facebook said the Messenger Kids app will not show kids any advertisements or offer in-app purchases, it does seem like the primary reason the free-to-download app exists, from a business perspective, is to get more people engaged with a Facebook product at a much younger age.

Facebook also said it will closely monitor the content shared on Messenger Kids to prevent any users from sharing sexual or violent content, with a support team in place to respond quickly to anything flagged as inappropriate by children or parents. Messenger Kids also includes tools for kids to report any online harassment or cyber-bullying, which has been a major issue for official Facebook users for years.

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