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Facebook is now planning to attract the younger users.The social network has announced that it is launching a new app, Messenger Kids, which allows children to use Facebook’s messaging software, the first time the company has allowed children younger than 13 to have an official presence on any of its platforms.
Think of Messenger Kids as a kind of stripped-down version of the regular Messenger app, but with a bunch of extra parental controls. Kids can swap messages; make video calls; and share selfies, GIFs, and stickers with people on their (parent-approved) friends list. The app is available now to iPhone users in the United States.
But because it’s a standalone service, Messenger Kids accounts are treated much differently than the typical Facebook account. There are no ads, and Facebook says it won’t hand over data from Messenger Kids to advertisers.
The social network has also done its best to wall off Messenger Kids accounts from Facebook’s main social graph, the only people who have the ability to see a child’s Messenger account are friends of their parents.
The social networking giant said it spent the past 18 months talking with childhood development and safety experts to come up with a set of controls that will satisfy the majority of parents’ potential concerns.
Here’s what they came up with:
• A Messenger Kids account must be associated with a parent’s existing Facebook account
• Parents approve all friend requests via their own Facebook account
• Adults must be Facebook friends with the parent of the child they want to message
• If another child on Messenger Kids wants to chat, then the parents of both children need to be Facebook friends
• Parents are notified if a child blocks or reports an account, and they can take those actions on their child’s behalf as well — though they can’t read their messages without the child’s device
Additionally, Facebook has a dedicated team of reviewers who monitor reports from Messenger Kids accounts. The company also uses software that can automatically detect certain types of content, like nudity, and prevent it from being shared within the app
But even with those safeguards, the app will still likely raise concerns among some parents, particularly as supposedly kid-friendly services like YouTube Kids are facing a backlash for the prevalence of disturbing content.