Published: Fri, December 08, 2017
IT | By Lester Massey

Facebook's new Messenger app for kids has Congress asking about privacy

Facebook's new Messenger app for kids has Congress asking about privacy

"Finally, Facebook can implement built-in mechanisms into the app itself, e.g., a turn-off timer, that supports a healthy media diet and regulates time spent on devices versus doing something else". "In other apps, they can contact anyone they want or be contacted by anyone", Facebook's head of Messenger David Marcus notes.

Facebook said it developed the app after speaking with thousands of parents, major parental groups and child development experts.

Messenger Kids is also an excellent Messenger feature for children that would prevent abuse and ensure a great environment that they can enjoy. Every additional friend request requires approval by the parent.

While the new messenger will be available only in the USA and only the owners of gadgets on the iOS platform.

According to Messenger Kids' privacy policy, the app collects registration details from parents such as children's full names.

The free service, called Messenger Kids, must be activated by the child's parents.

"Given the sensitive nature of children's personal information, Messenger Kids must take responsible steps to protect their privacy and comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)", responded Mr. Markey and Mr. Blumenthal, both members of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Finally, Facebook stated that it is serious in aiding parents to monitor their children's use of the company messaging apps.

With the new Messenger Kids app, kids can send photos, videos or text messages to their parent-approved friends and adult relatives, who will receive the messages via their regular app. Kids can start a one-on-one or group video chat with parent-approved contacts using the app. The app does not contain ads and is free of in-app purchases.

Facebook hired a special team to develop kid-friendly creative tools, from fidget spinner and dinosaur AR masks to crayon-style stickers. "It's just like setting up a play date", Davis said. "Sometimes after 5 or 10 minutes it's really hard to have a sustained conversation with a 7-year-old", but kids can joke around with Grampa using the selfie filters when they run out of run-on stories to tell them.

Loren Cheng, product director for Messenger Kids, said Facebook would not use for marketing purposes the details it collected from children. "We've been working closely with the FTC so we're lockstep with them".

One thing that might surprise some people is that there's no way for parents to secretly spy on what their kids are saying in their chats. The exception is that if kids report a piece of objectionable content, their parents will be notified but still not shown the content in their own app.

Download: First, download the Messenger Kids app on your child's iPad, iPod touch, or iPhone from the App Store. "Facebook needs to provide assurances that this "walled garden" service they describe is fully protective of children".

While some parents feel Facebook snaking its way into his children's lives at an early age would most likely do more harm than good some others think that technology going to be adopted by kids is inevitable. They'll still have to build a traditional Facebook account from scratch when they're ready.

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