Messenger Kids is launching in preview today for iPhone and iPad users in the USA 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.
Teens might be migrating to new social media platforms these days, but Facebook thinks it can reach an even younger demographic-kids as young as six-with a new app called Messenger Kids.
The Internet can be a scary, unsafe place for children, even when parents go to great lengths to control what content, videos, apps and games their offsprings are allowed to access on specially designed tablets and wearable devices.
Parents may worry about exposing their young children to digital services, but Facebook has taken steps to make sure they can maintain control, said Larry Magid, chief executive of the nonprofit ConnectSafely, one of many organizations Facebook briefed on the product ahead of its launch.
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Facebook is about to rollout a version of Messenger aimed specifically at kids, known as Messenger Kids. The company emphasised that Parents will have full control of who their child interacts with on Messenger Kids. And earlier in the year, the company introduced new tools to help parents stay better informed about what their kids are doing within FreeTime, its kid-friendly content service with a special whitelisted selection of games, apps, and books. Parents have to do it for them. Facebook says it will have an Android version of the app ready to go soon, but for now, kids are limited to chatting on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch. She said: "The risk of exposure to things [children] were not developmentally prepared for is huge".
This experience is tailored to devices that are given to kids, not the smartphones or tablets that parents use, which may already have a Messenger app installed.
When it comes to ads, Facebook said it will also not use data from Messenger Kids for Facebook ads.
Conversations are constantly monitored via artificial intelligence to ensure that inappropriate content or language doesn't get through, and if either party gets upset about the conversation everyone's parents are notified when someone in the convo gets blocked or reported by the other.
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Above: Image of Messenger Kids provided by Facebook. Facebook has been focusing on capturing younger users as it faces competition from Snapchat. That's a departure from Facebook's approach in the past, as when it required users to download the separate Messenger app in 2014 in order to send direct messages on Facebook.
Safety also remains a major question for any online kids product. 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. But the technology giant today announced a new version of the service that could bump its active user base up considerably.
"Do parents want to spend all their time monitoring their kids' texts and social media", she asked.
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