Sunday, 23 September, 2018

Facebook to launch chat app for kids, with parental controls

Facebook built a new version of Messenger for younger users.                  Facebook Facebook built a new version of Messenger for younger users. Facebook
Kayla Schwartz | 04 December, 2017, 18:09

It's not far-fetched to assume that child users of Messenger Kids will be more likely to want a Facebook account, and that Facebook will make it easier in the future to migrate a child's Messenger Kids account over to the main app.

While most social-networking sites and apps, including Facebook, require users to be over thirteen years of age, there seems to be a need among parents to let younger children communicate with their friends in a controlled manner.

The move opens up a new way for Facebook to compete with Snap's disappearing-photo and chat app, which is popular among younger teenagers. The same can't be said for the vast majority of messaging apps out there, such as Snapchat and Facebook's full-fledged Messenger (both of which are not supposed to be used by children).

As with the main Facebook Messenger app, Messenger Kids features masks and kid-friendly GIFs to enhance video chats, and in the interests of safety there are filters in place to prevent the sharing of inappropriate content. Facebook has also set up a dedicated rapid-response support team that is able to deal with anything that is flagged up. With Messenger Kids, "parents fully control the contact list and kids can't connect with contacts that their parent does not approve".

There's a simple reason Facebook is starting to focus on children: Kids are already using technology anyway.

"One of the things we found over and over again is that kids look at communications as play, and so we wanted to make this as playful as possible", said Loren Cheng, Facebook's director of product management.

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To try it out, just download the app on your kid's device and log in using your own Facebook username and password. Adults can use the normal Messenger app to talk to the kids on Messenger Kids - it's completely interoperable. This will not create a Facebook account for your child or give them access to your Facebook account. It is free to download and there are no in-app purchases. It's completely independent of the flagship Facebook and Messenger apps, and is compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act. 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.

Messenger Kids is available in preview form today on the App Store.

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

"As a parent, I would not be interested in a messaging product for my kids", Radesky said.

Global head of safety at Facebook, Antigone Davis, discussed the difficulties of raising children in a digital world: "My daughter and online technologies have grown up together".

The Fountas family got a chance to try out the app. The company has also been in discussions with organizations such as the National PTA and Blue Star Families for coming up with the parental controls and decide the approach for a digital platform for children.

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