The health secretary took to Twitter to condemn the new tool, saying the firm had promised to prevent under-age use of its product. "After talking to thousands of parents, associations like National PTA, and parenting experts in the U.S., 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, a product management director at Facebook. She first heard of Facebook's interest in children 5 or 6 years ago and urged it not to create a full social network for children.
"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", Loren Cheng, product management director for the new app, explained in an announcement on Facebook's website. At launch, kids can use it on a iPad or iPhone in order to video chat with a grandparent or message a cousin or send a decorated photo to a friend.
He said the company was failing to act responsibly despite having assured the government that it would not target its service at children, who can only use the main social media website if they are over 13.
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During the announcement launch of the new app, Facebook Product Management director Loren Cheng said the app "makes it easier for kids to safely video chat and message with family and friends".
You won't be able to add people directly, this can only be done by the parent or guardian who has set up the profile. Facebook's move has already been criticized in some countries.
Facebook said the point of Messenger Kids was to provide a more controlled environment for the types of activities that were occurring across smartphones and tablets among family members. "We appreciate that for now, the product is ad-free and appears created to put parents in control".
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The app offers a simplified version of the standard Messenger, requiring explicit parental approval and excluding some features.
The child would not be given their own Facebook account, which is prohibited for those under 13.
Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is spending December on parental leave with his two daughters, hasn't spoken publicly yet about Messenger Kids.
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"The reality is that kids are going to go use apps if they're under 13", he said.