Published: Tue, December 05, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

Facebook launches parent-controlled Messenger app for kids

Facebook launches parent-controlled Messenger app for kids

Messenger for Kids, launched Monday, was designed as a legal way for children to use Facebook.

A Facebook spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo, "We've built automated systems that can detect things like nudity, violence, and child exploitative imagery to help limit that content from being shared on Messenger Kids".

"We understand that this is extraordinarily frightening", explained Facebook Head of Global Safety Antigone Davis. Parental permission is required to sign up for the app, she said. As you can probably guess from the name alone, this is a new version of Messenger that has plenty of parental restrictions in place, making it a safe way for children to stay in touch with family members and friends.

Parents are in full control of who their child interacts with on Messenger Kids.

It's worth noting here that Facebook itself remains closed to those under 13 years of age. The emphasis is on safety, with all contacts having to be approved by parents.

Facebook's expansion into this market raised some alarm bells. Will parents get ads based on the service?

There are no adverts or in-app purchases and the social network said the child's information will not be used for advertising purposes. The app is created to be compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA). Davis said that Facebook spoke with the Federal Trade Commission to ensure that the app complies with COPPA.

The Fountas family got a chance to try out the app.

Above: Image of Messenger Kids provided by Facebook. But, she warned, many products that start as noncommercial can change over time.

When it comes to ads, Facebook said it will also not use data from Messenger Kids for Facebook ads.

The free Messenger Kids app is connected to parents' Facebook accounts. Messages can't be deleted either, which means that they'll be there should you decide to check in on what your kid is talking about. And the only way they can do that is through Facebook.

The parents are the only people who can add contacts for their kids.

Watch out for Messenger Kids in the app store over the next few days. The app is launching for iPhone immediately, but will eventually come to Android and Amazon Fire devices.

The app, Messenger for Kids, will allow parents to have control over who their child chats or video calls with, as the app will be a part of the parents' own Facebook account. "I've been using it since I was six years old.' So, it's kind of that fan ecosystem that other companies have had for so much longer".

"I think at some point, we need to be realistic that social media isn't going away", Fountas said. Melanie Hempe, of Families Managing Media, a company dedicated to helping families instill good technology and social media habits, told the Daily News that kids as young as 6 should not be using social media.

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