Facebook rolls out kids version of Messenger

Bill Rogers
December 5, 2017

Right now, you can only do that in a feature-crippled Messenger Kids app available as a preview on United States iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches, but a Google Play and Amazon App Store expansion will definitely happen "in the coming months", and the general concept might be something worth exploring for the larger Facebook platform as well.

For starters, Messenger Kids doesn't require the creation of a Facebook account - instead, parents will create a Messenger Kids account for their child using their own Facebook account.

Messenger Kids is a training wheels version of its full-fledged product - which will allow children to exchange messages and photos with friends and family as well as video chats.

Research shows most kids 6-13 are already on social media or messaging apps like Snapchat & Musically that don't protect against stranger danger.

Facebook said there will be plenty of safeguards built into Messenger Kids.

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Messenger Kids is designed for kids and helps them in connecting with family and close friends. But text-based conversations are also possible, just like the regular Messenger app. Features like emoji, GIFs, stickers, selfie frames and even AR experiences are available inside the app. From there, parents will be able to add and remove contacts to a child's account. Facebook will also not use child's information for ads. Kids don't need a phone number for creating an account. However, several reports have surfaced showing inappropriate videos streaming through to kids. The app was 18 months in development, Svensson said.

Messenger Kids may be completely separate from Facebook's other apps, but a lot of the parental management happens through Facebook.

Facebook said it consulted with 1200 parents plus online security and child development specialists, including the National Parent-Teacher Association, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Connect Safely, Center on Media and Child Health, and Sesame Workshop.

Once Messenger Kids has been set up, your child can make video calls and send messages to any of the contacts you've approved. The app is launching for iPhone immediately, but will eventually come to Android and Amazon Fire devices. "A child does not have the cognitive maturity or impulse control to properly manage their time and use on digital platforms", Hempe said. That is still restricted to children age 13 and up. Messenger Kids presents another way to tap into a subset of the younger demographic. The rules for traditional Facebook services aren't changing, kids still have to be 13 years old to get their own accounts. Facebook won't migrate kids over to its "adult" apps when children reach that age, but it's easy to see that happening on its own.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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