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Facebook launches Messenger Kids app - but parents vet chat contacts
04 December 2017, 06:13 | Jodi Jackson
According to Facebook, Messenger Kids is meant to be a way of introducing children to digital communication in a safe and accessible way.
"After talking to thousands of parents, associations like National PTA, and parenting experts in the United States, 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", said Loren Cheng, Facebook's Product Management Director.
Facebook said that the app was designed in conjunction with parents and safety organizations and is compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA).
To target kids, you need to target the parents - and that's what Facebook is doing now with Messenger.
A new report from TechCrunch says the free app is aimed at kids under 13, who can't yet have their own accounts under Facebook's rules, though they often do. Once it's configured, kids can start a one-on-one conversation or a group video chat, with parent-approved contacts. The company also emphasizes the fact that parents are in full control of who their children are able to connect with. You have a lot of say over who your kids connect with thanks to Messenger Kids so you won't have to worry about online predators or anything similar. In addition to needing a parent to create an account and add new contacts, kids can not delete any messages, and parents are notified any time a kid reports a message.
The company said it will collect "little data" about its youngusers and will not feature ads or in-app purchases. "They want a level of control over their kids' digital world that is similar to the level they have in the real world", says Facebook's public policy director Antigone Davis. A new app, Messenger Kids, is now available in the U.S. for iOS users.
The preview app is available for download in the Apple App Store. Will you let your kids use it?
Now Facebook is creating a pipeline for children to become regular users of its products, starting as young as six years old, by claiming to offer an alternative better than what it exists today. Only parents have the ability to add friends or delete messages. That's the federal law that protects underage children from exploitation online, and it's the reason so many online services require children be 13 years of age or older in order to sign up.
"The reality is that kids are going to go use apps if they're under 13", he said.
The Fountas family got a chance to try out the app. 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. This will not create a Facebook account for your child or give them access to your Facebook account. Parents can download the app to their child's iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone from the App Store. Facebook also said that it has filtering software and human moderators scouring the platform for inappropriate content that they will then remove.
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