Facebook has announced a new version of its Messenger chat app for kids, designed for children ages 6 to 12. Called Messenger Kids. Here are the details.
The emphasis is on safety, with all contacts having to be approved by parents. Messenger Kids is a new Facebook’s app that does require a Facebook account – due to federal law, users under the age of 13 cannot legally sign up for Facebook. That’s why, parents are able to manage a child’s Messenger Kids app from their Facebook account, controlling which friends and family members the child is able to contact.
Facebook is launching the same Messenger Kids app in a preview with a limited rollout on iOS. When the app launches in the next few days, with an Android version to follow later in the month, too.
According to some reports, the app is designed to overcome a couple of issues. First and foremost, the fact that many messaging apps require a phone number, which your children don’t have.
Facebook says it has also screened all the stickers and other graphics to ensure they are age-specific, and there are no ads. The social media site is going to great lengths to make sure the app does not come off as exploitative. So there are no ads for Messenger Kids and your child’s information isn’t used for ads. It is free to grab and there are no in-app purchases at all.
Facebook’s Messenger Kids is designed to be compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act, or COPPA. Now Facebook is creating a pipeline for children to become regular users of its products, starting as young six years old, by claiming to offer an alternative better than what it exists today.
Most kids tend to use tablets or iPod Touches that don’t have phone numbers, so normal texting and video chats are a no-go (unless it’s with mommy’s phone, which isn’t always great for mommy). Sure you could use an app like FaceTime or Hangouts, but most of them don’t offer the kind of control that parents want, especially for really young kids.
Second safety. And adult with a Facebook account needs to create the child’s account. Of course, that’s not a Facebook account, but one specific to Messenger Kids – and they then need to approve all contacts.
The parents are the only people who can add contacts for their kids. And the only way they can do that is through Facebook. Adding adult family members like grandpa and grandma is easy because they likely already have Facebook accounts. Adults can use the normal Messenger app to talk to the kids about Messenger Kids — it’s completely interoperable.
But let’s say your child wants to befriend other children, like his classmate Peggy, on Messenger Kids. What then? In this case, you have to already be Facebook friends with Peggy’s parents. If Peggy is already on Messenger Kids, you’ll see her name under her parent’s name and you can tap it to add her as a friend to your child. Peggy’s parents will then have to approve your contact request in order to ass your child to Peggy’s contact list as well.”
Both kids and parents can even block contacts at any time. If the child does it, the parent is notified. If the parent does it, the child cannot re-add them. Additionally, either can report a problem contact through the app itself.
It’s still worth pointing out that Facebook is going after the next generation of users by targeting children. And that Facebook will make it easier in the future to migrate a child’s Messenger Kids account over to the main app.
Watch out for Messenger Kids in the app store over the next few days.
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