Facebook launches new "Messenger Kids" app

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Facebook launches new "Messenger Kids" app

"After talking to thousands of parents, associations like National PTA, and parenting experts in the USA, we found that there's a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want", Loren Cheng, product management director for the new app, explained in an announcement on Facebook's website. Parents control kids accounts and contacts through the Messenger Kids Controls panel in their main Facebook app.

In an announcement yesterday, Facebook revealed its latest app for iPhone and iPad: Messenger Kids. In layman's terms, it means kids get all the perks of video chatting and parents get peace of mind knowing that they're only allowed to talk to preapproved contacts.

The app is only available on Apple devices for now. If your child ever attempts to add a contact, it will be submitted as a request that you can either accept or reject.

Katharine Hill, UK Director of Christian charity Care for the Family told Premier that while she welcomed Facebook addressing the issue of children using its app, there were issues the social media giant still needs to consider.

Kids said they want to use the platforms to have fun and connect with family.

Facebook's rules require that children be at least 13 to create an account, but many are believed to get around the restrictions. Face filters and playful masks can be distracting for adults, Lavallee said, but for kids who are just learning how to form relationships and stay in touch with parents digitally, they are ways to express themselves.

Messenger features like location sharing and payments have been stripped out, while the Kids version of Giphy won't let you search for things like "sex". In contrast, Facebook Messenger Kids "makes parents the gatekeepers" and was designed "with the best of intentions", according to Lavallee.

That's important - the obvious commercial benefit to this new app might be to target ads to parents based on what their kids are talking about.

"Facebook has had an under 13 problem for many, many years", said Stephen Balkam, founder of the Family Online Safety Institute. No message content is collected for ad targeting (same as Messenger), and there's no in-app purchases to worry about. No additional app download is needed for parents to control settings, either; that's done through the Facebook app on their smartphone.