Facebook Launches New Messenger App for Young Kids-What Could Possibly Wrong?

Vladimir Smirnov  Getty Images

Vladimir Smirnov  Getty Images

Messenger Kids accounts are not the same as regular Facebook accounts, and do not turn into regular accounts once the child turns 13.

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. In fact, all you need is your child's name to use the app. Adults can use the normal Messenger app to talk to the kids on Messenger Kids - it's completely interoperable.

The app is now available as a preview, and Facebook says that it has worked with parents and groups such as the National PTA to ensure safety.

Facebook rolled out a preview Monday of Messenger Kids, a new app designed specifically for kids, allowing them to video chat and send message to friends and family.

Parents can remove contacts from the app, and children can't reinstate them. 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.

As Engadget explains, kids won't even be able to add friends. The company also says Messenger Kids won't show ads or collect data for marketing.

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As of today, Messenger Kids is only launching on the iOS App Store. This preview is available on the App Store for iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone. The social network also is looking at building controls around how much time a child can spend on the app. Contacts are added through an "Explore" section of the app that should let parents search and find other contacts.

Major tech firms have recently released more products that allow children to use their products within the limits of the privacy law - and reach more of the country's 48.8 million children under the age of 13 in the process. Kids can't delete messages either, so theoretically if a child is using inappropriate language, they wouldn't be able to erase what they've said. It's completely independent of the flagship Facebook and Messenger apps, and is compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act.

The reason behind this move is to recruit kids on to the Facebook platform early on, before they might discover Snapchat or any other competitors.

The Fountas family got a chance to try out the app. What then? In this case, you have to already be Facebook friends with Peggy's parents.

"It's really hard to keep the control over who [kids] communicate with, how they communicate, what tools are at their disposal", said David Marcus, head of Facebook Messenger.

Kristelle Lavallee, a children's psychology expert and content strategist at the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard University, worked with Facebook to develop the app.

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