Facebook launches parent-controlled Messenger app for kids

Facebook's new chat app for kids makes parents approve conversations

Facebook targets 6- to 12-year-old demographic with new Messenger app

Facebook is rolling out a new app, Messenger Kids. The service won't let children add their own friends or delete messages - only parents can do that. It's launching Monday in the USA, initially on Apple devices.

Right now, you can only do that in a feature-crippled Messenger Kids app available as a preview on USA iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches, but a Google Play and Amazon App Store expansion will definitely happen "in the coming months", and the general concept might be something worth exploring for the larger Facebook platform as well.

A Facebook spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo, "We've built automated systems that can detect things like nudity, violence, and child exploitative imagery to help limit that content from being shared on Messenger Kids". The account will be in Messenger Kids app and will automatically migrate to original Messenger account when they turn 13. Amazon has also added kid-focused "skills" to its Echo smart speakers, which require a parent's permission to activate.

Facebook's new chat app for kids makes parents approve conversations
Facebook introduces 'Messenger Kids'

According to Head of Messenger David Marcus, offering Messenger Kids is another way to give parents more control over what their children read, see and hear on smartphones and tablets, which have become commonplace inside and outside the home.

Facebook is launching a new version of its chat app targeting children under 13 with strict parental controls including contact approvals.

Facebook said it had "thought-provoking conversations" around parent controls and responsible online communication with organizations such as National PTA and Blue Star Families in shaping the app.

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There are no adverts or in-app purchases and the social network said the child's information will not be used for advertising purposes. The new app gives it a chance to win brand loyalty from younger children at a time when it faces competition for teenagers from other social media platforms such as Snapchat.

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.

Once Messenger Kids has been set up, your child can make video calls and send messages to any of the contacts you've approved.

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He said Facebook is trying to deal with the situation pragmatically by steering young Facebook users to a service designed for them. There are even kid-friendly GIFs, masks, and stickers they can use.

Major tech firms have recently released more products that allow children to engage within the limits of the privacy law - and that reach more of the country's approximately 50 million children under the age of 13 in the process.

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