News Worms
News Worms


Facebook made a Messenger app that's just for kids

Facebook made a Messenger app that's just for kids

"Whether it's using video chat to talk to grandparents, staying in touch with cousins who live far away, or sending mom a decorated photo while she's working late to say hi, Messenger Kids opens up a new world of online communication to families", wrote Loren Cheng, Facebook's product management director in a blog post. If two children want to be friends with each other, each will have to get parental approval for contact.

Facebook said the app will not feature in-app purchases or ads nor will the child's information be used for ads. These controls are accessible through the main Facebook app. Only parents have the ability to add friends or delete messages. Kids don't get a separate Facebook or Messenger account; rather, it's an extension of a parent's account.

It's "The Social Network" meets "Sesame Street".

"The parent really is helping to establish that social community", said Antigone Davis, Facebook's head of global security and families. We heard that they were looking for better apps for their children to use and from there, we worked directly with parents and kids along with experts in child development, online safety and children's media to help build our first app for kids.

"New aspects of the product will emerge", said Montgomery, in her role as a senior consultant for the Center for Digital Democracy. Once their account is set up by a parent, kids can start a one-on-one or group video chat with parent-approved contacts.

Facebook is about to launch a standalone Messenger application just for kids.

Messenger Kids is the product of over 12 months of development by the Messenger team, which also spoke to hundreds of parents, primarily in the US, as well as the United Kingdom and Australia. Facebook's safeguards have made it more hard for strangers to contact a child, they said.

Messenger Kids is launching in preview today for iPhone and iPad users in the us 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. It will be soon available for Android and Amazon Kindle devices.

Kristelle Lavallee, a children's psychology expert who advised Facebook on designing the service, called it a "useful tool" but also noted, "The risk of exposure to things they were not developmentally prepared for is huge". Magid said it may be more realistic to encourage companies to create safer, more limited and legally compliant services as a sort of "training wheels" version of more mainstream social media. "They need to be outside, interacting with their friends (and family) in person and learning how to have real conversation and social skills", Hempe said.

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