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Facebook debuts new Messenger app for kids 6 and up
05 December 2017, 02:16 | Denise Dawson
The stand-alone app on children's devices can be controlled by a parent's Facebook account that will allow kids to use video chat and send photos, videos or text messages to friends approved by their parents.
The free Messenger Kids app is connected to parents' Facebook accounts. 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.
Right now, you can only do that in a feature-crippled Messenger Kids app available as a preview on United States iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches, but a Google Play and Amazon App Store expansion will definitely happen "in the coming months", and the general concept might be something worth exploring for the larger Facebook platform as well. While the app operates as its own version of Messenger, kid's accounts are actually nested under their parent's accounts. No data from Messenger Kids will be fed to the main social network, nor will their information automatically port to other Facebook products when they turn 13, the company said.
Facebook is about to launch a standalone Messenger application just for kids. Amazon has also added kid-focused "skills" to its Echo smart speakers, which require a parent's permission to activate. More than 90 percent of children 6 to 12 have access to tablets or smartphones, and 66 percent of that same age group have either their own tablet or smartphone, according to numbers provided by Dubit, a consulting agency. If two children want to be friends with each other, each will have to get parental approval for contact.
As of today, Messenger Kids is only launching on the iOS App Store. It's completely independent of the flagship Facebook and Messenger apps, and is compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act.
This is the first time Facebook has developed an app specifically for kids.
Kristelle Lavallee, a children's psychology expert who advised Facebook on designing the service, called it a "useful tool" but also noted, "The risk of exposure to things they were not developmentally prepared for is huge".
Messenger Kids offers an opportunity to introduce children to the wider Facebook ecosystem, fending off advances from rivals targeting children and teenagers, while locking parents and family into the social network to communicate with their children.
Above: Image of Messenger Kids provided by Facebook. That is still restricted to children age 13 and up. That's a departure from Facebook's approach in the past, as when it required users to download the separate Messenger app in 2014 in order to send direct messages on Facebook.
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