Facebook Launches Privacy-Focused Messenger App For Kids To Chat With Parental Approval

By Alexandra Burlacu | Dec 04, 2017 10:01 PM EST

Facebook has a new Messenger app specifically designed for kids, allowing those under 13 to chat with people whom their parents approve.

The internet is riddled with threats, scams, child predators, and inappropriate content, which is why Facebook doesn't allow kids to sign up and use its platform. Rival platforms targeting youngsters, such as Snapchat, are also struggling to counter such threats, but typically, the golden rule for most parents is to keep their kids off social media apps and monitor their internet access.

What Is Facebook Messenger Kids?

For the first time, Facebook is now offering a solution for kids to use its messaging platform, introducing Messenger Kids. This version is specifically designed for under 13s, and it's now available in the United States, but only for iOS for now.

With Facebook Messenger Kids, parents have to download the app on their kids' mobile device, create the kid's profile, and set approved people with whom the kids can chat from the main Messenger app.

The kids themselves don't need a phone number and their own Facebook account. With their parents' permission, however, they can chat with approved Messenger and Messenger Kids users from a parent's account. Simply put, Messenger Kids is a child-friendly, standalone Messenger app with strict parental controls, allowing kids to piggyback on their parent's account but without all the adult's privileges.

Facebook Messenger Kids: How Does It Work?

When kids log in to their profile, the app's home screen will show them who they're allowed to talk to and when approved people are online. Kids will not be able to talk to any users who are not on the approved people list. With approved contacts, kids can text or voice chat and make their conversation more fun with masks, sound effects, and emojis.

Family members or friends who receive photos, videos, or messages from kids on the Messenger Kids app can see the messages and reply via the regular Messenger app, with no need to install the kid-friendly version themselves as well. Kids will also be able to choose from a curated library of GIFs, stickers, masks, frames, and drawing tools, specifically chosen to be kid-friendly.

Facebook has also integrated safety filters with proactive detection, so kids will not be able to share any sexual content, nudity, violence, or any other kind of inappropriate content. A support team will monitor the activity and quickly handle flagged or reported content.

Facebook Messenger Kids Parental Controls

With Messenger Kids, parents are in control. Parents will see the Messenger Kids Controls panel in their main Facebook app, and from there, they will be able to control their kids' contact list and contact requests. They can approve or delete approved contacts at any time.

Before coming up with the Messenger Kids app, Facebook conducted extensive research and talked not only with parents but also with expert advisors from a number of fields including online safety, child development, and children's media and technology. Facebook discussed what it would need to support responsible communication and adequate parental controls so it could come up with a solution that would give parents peace of mind.

Before rolling out today in the United States, the app has been in testing with many families at Facebook and Messenger. Parents and their kids used the app and helped fine-tune it and create essential features such as simple and effective parental controls.

Messenger Kids does not feature any ads whatsoever, and the kids' profile information will not be used for targeted advertising. The app doesn't have any in-app purchases. It's free to download, and it complies with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA).

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