Facebook launches Messenger Kids app - but parents vet chat contacts

Facebook's new chat app for kids makes parents approve conversations

Messenger Kids users can do numerous same things users of the regular Messenger app can do - send text-based messages, video chat, tack on virtual stickers and face masks - but with stricter rules and parental controls in place. "We appreciate that for now, the product is ad-free and appears created to put parents in control". Parents can use their main Facebook app to control kids accounts and contacts through the Messenger Kids Controls panel.

"Why should parents simply trust that Facebook is acting in the best interest of kids?" As is the case with the regular Facebook app, the camera in Messenger Kids is loaded with stickers and effects - all of which have been made specifically for the child-friendly app and aren't available in Facebook's other services.

It's worth noting here that Facebook itself remains closed to those under 13 years of age.

Setting up the app requires an adult with a Facebook account, who can set up the child's profile and the initial list of friends and family members the child will be allowed to connect with on Messenger.

Facebook has taken a few more steps to ensure that Messenger Kids is not plagued with any loopholes. Kids can also block and report users themselves, and parents will find out about it. Facebook will monitor all reports and ban harmful accounts.

This follows a trend we've seen elsewhere in the technology realm, with companies looking for ways to hook children into their respective ecosystems as early as possible.

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Kids will be able to send photos, videos or other messages to relatives or other contacts accessible through the primary Messenger app, and vice versa.

Messenger for Kids launched Monday and is now only available through the Apple App Store, with Amazon and Google Play appearing "in the coming months", the Facebook press release said. Once this is done, the kids are ready to use the app.

Facebook outlines what data it collects from Messenger Kids in its privacy policy. This, combined with the fact that parents have to approve each of their children's contacts, should prevent phony accounts from appearing on the platform, a practice that's become a huge problem for Facebook.

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".

Facebook said the app will not feature in-app purchases or ads nor will the child's information be used for ads. The child does not have a Facebook account, which is prohibited for those under 13; instead the app operates as an extension of the parent's account. In order to befriend another child in Messenger Kids, a parent must also be friends with that child's parent on Facebook.

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