Facebook Launches 'Messenger Kids' For Under-13 Users

Messenger Kids allows children to chat with their parents and with friends approved by their parents

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. The app is created to be compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA).

"[Messenger Kids] doesn't overcome the issues of screen time and screen use and all the other issues that go with technology and kids", Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, told The Post.

Facebook said the app will not feature in-app purchases or ads nor will the child's information be used for ads. A button for launching the camera is located toward the top of the screen.

"There's really a gap in the market for a messaging app for kids that also gives parents control", Facebook spokeswoman Lauren Svensson said. While the app operates as its own version of Messenger, kid's accounts are actually nested under their parent's accounts. This includes an effect that places a virtual mask on the user's face and makes a corresponding sound when he or she opens their mouth.

At the same time, Facebook is promising not to sell ads into the Messenger Kids stream nor to automatically move the kids onto Facebook when they are eligible.

Facebook rolled out Monday a version of its popular Messenger app for kids under 13. The reasoning behind this, says Facebook, is to avoid forcing parents and other relatives to download an extra app.

If your kids are going to message friends and family, wouldn't you rather have them do it safely and securely?

Also, unlike the regular version of Facebook, children under 13 on the app won't have Facebook accounts associated with their app. Facebook's current policy doesn't let individuals under 13 create accounts. From there, parents will be able to add and remove contacts to a child's account. It wants kids on board as early as possible, and it knows that parents are eager to keep in touch with their kids through a safe environment that they can control.

Authenticate: Then, authenticate your child's device using your own Facebook username and password.

Parents are in full control of who their child interacts with on Messenger Kids. But first, kids must get a parental approval.

Facebook has taken a few more steps to ensure that Messenger Kids is not plagued with any loopholes.

Neither of the Fountas children - 6-year-old son Jack does not have an account - have smart phones so the Messenger app gives them a fun way to talk with their out-of-state grandmother, Fountas said. Facebook won't migrate kids over to its "adult" apps when children reach that age, but it's easy to see that happening on its own.

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