Published: Tue, December 05, 2017
Sci-tech | By Jackie Newman

Facebook Launches 'Messenger Kids' For Under-13 Users

Facebook Launches 'Messenger Kids' For Under-13 Users

That's simple really: It's all about getting kids on board earlier so that they are "Facebook-aware" by the time they hit 13. The app is created to be compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA). The app is launching for iPhone immediately, but will eventually come to Android and Amazon Fire devices.

Kids under 13 can't be on Facebook or Messenger under the company's rules - but many already are. And approved adults can chat with the child using regular Messenger.

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.

Facebook said there will be plenty of safeguards built into Messenger Kids.

"[Messenger Kids] doesn't overcome the issues of screen time and screen use and all the other issues that go with technology and kids", Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, told The Post.

Loren Cheng, a product management director at Facebook, said: "Whether it's using video chat to talk to grandparents, staying in touch with cousins who live far away, or sending mom a decorated photo while she's working late to say hi, Messenger Kids opens up a new world of online communication to families".

Your child will only be able to chat with friends and family members you approve of, via text or video, as well as send photos, choosing from a rich library of age-appropriate and "specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools" that let them "decorate content and express their personalities".

Messenger Kids is designed for kids and helps them in connecting with family and close friends. Parental permission is required to sign up for the app, she said.

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As of today, Messenger Kids is only launching on the iOS App Store.

Facebook outlines what data it collects from Messenger Kids in its privacy policy.

Facebook said it consulted with 1200 parents plus online security and child development specialists, including the National Parent-Teacher Association, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Connect Safely, Center on Media and Child Health, and Sesame Workshop.

Parents shouldn't, for example, see an ad for a toy on Facebook because their child talked about it on Messenger Kids. A recent study from Common Sense Media found that parents are more skeptical of the benefits of social media for their children then they are of smartphones or even wearable devices. The company, in its post, said the kids can have access to social media with parental control.

The Messenger Kids app on an iPad.

Parents are in full control of who their child interacts with on Messenger Kids.

Facebook, like other social media sites, requires that users be at least 13 years old to sign up for an account.

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