Published: Mon, December 04, 2017
IT | By Lester Massey

Facebook to launch chat app for kids, with parental controls

Facebook to launch chat app for kids, with parental controls

Major tech firms have recently released more products that allow children to use their products within the limits of the privacy law - and reach more of the country's 48.8 million children under the age of 13 in the process.

The preview of Messenger Kids will roll out on iOS in the USA on Monday and launch officially by the end of the year. Children can't add contacts without their parents' approval first, and should one of those contacts become troublesome, parents can block them directly.

There's one thing your kids won't encounter in this app: ads.

A new report from TechCrunch says the free app is aimed at kids under 13, who can't yet have their own accounts under Facebook's rules, though they often do.

From features point-of-view, the Messenger Kids app doesn't seem too different from the standard Messenger app. Children can chat using text, audio or video using the app.


For families who prefer an Android flavor of Messenger, fret not, there will be a version arriving on Google Play and the Amazon App Store "in the coming months". According to Facebook, Messenger Kids is meant to be a way of introducing children to digital communication in a safe and accessible way. Facebook also said it will not automatically move users to the regular Messenger or Facebook when they get old enough, though the company may provide them the option to move contacts to Messenger down the line. The app also gives parents the ability to control a child's contact list, while a more spartan home screen shows pre-approved friends that are online and preexisting one-on-one chats and group threads.

Messenger Kids functions like Facebook's normal messaging app with a few caveats: children using the app can only send age appropriate GIFs, their version has no ads or in-app purchases available and the account must be set up by a parent. The social network also is looking at building controls around how much time a child can spend on the app. The company argued that the app's protections against child predators and online exploitation make it suitable for kids as young as six. Then, you'll just need to create an account for your child by providing their name. "Questions and concerns" Facebook consulted with parents and child safety experts while it developed the app.

There's a simple reason Facebook is starting to focus on children: Kids are already using technology anyway.

Messenger Kids may be completely separate from Facebook's other apps, but a lot of the parental management happens through Facebook. This will not create a Facebook account for your child or give them access to your Facebook account.

"The reality is that kids are going to go use apps if they're under 13", he said. The control panel for Messenger Kids is located in the main Facebook app. A recent study from Common Sense Media found that parents are more skeptical of the benefits of social media for their children then they are of smartphones or even wearable devices.

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