Facebook unveils Messenger app for kids

05 December, 2017, 02:42 | Author: Jacqueline Daniels
  • Screenshot of the Facebook Messenger app for kids

Facebook normally requires users to be at least 13 years old. According to Facebook, 93% of 6- to 12-year-old children in the US have access to smartphones and tablets, with about 80% of children in that same age range getting their first taste of social media, too.

Lavallee, who is content strategist at the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard University, called Messenger Kids a "useful tool" that "makes parents the gatekeepers". Finally, users of Messenger Kids can't delete any messages they've sent or received inside the app - another safeguard, in case parents want to check what their children have been up to. Messenger Kids comes with built-in parental controls, which means parents will be able to decide what they're children see, and more importantly, what they don't.

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".

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.

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Monday's unveiling was billed as a preview because so far it is only available in the United States and only on iOS, or Apple operating systems.

Dr. Lewis Bernstein, former executive vice president of Education, Research and Outreach for the Sesame Workshop, compares the development of Messenger Kids over the last 18 months to those early years of developing "Sesame Street", the long-running, iconic show that now airs on HBO and re-airs on PBS.

"We've engaged with over a dozen expert advisors in the areas of child development, online safety, and children's media and technology who've helped inform our approach to building our first app for kids", the Facebook announcement said. In order to befriend another child in Messenger Kids, a parent must also be friends with that child's parent on Facebook. Among them: Will it always remain ad-free, and will parents get ads based on the service?

The data it will collect is "to do things like display the previous messages in a conversation, to put most frequent contacts at the top of the contact list".

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An October study from Common Sense found that children 8 and under now average almost 2 ¹/₂ hours a day of screen time - with 48 of those minutes clocked from a mobile device.

With more than 2 billion monthly users, Facebook can't exactly guarantee that it's going to be a safe place for kids. Messenger Kids presents another way to tap into a subset of the younger demographic.

She said, "For a child who is just now starting out in social media to have certain restrictions and parental guidance, that is important". "It's actually really great for kids to see how grownups communicate effectively online and you can have the chance to model it for them".

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