Facebook previews Messenger Kids, new messaging and video chat for children

An example of what the video chat on Facebook's Messenger Kids app looks like

An example of what the video chat on Facebook's Messenger Kids app looks like

Facebook normally requires users to be at least 13 years old.

Most kids tend to use tablets or iPod Touches that don't have phone numbers, so normal texting and video chats are a no-go (unless it's with mommy's phone, which isn't always great for mommy).

"Many of us at Facebook are parents, and naturally we're thinking about technology's role in the lives of children and families", Antigone Davis, Facebook's Public Policy Director and Global Head of Safety, wrote in an article in Facebook's Newsroom addressing the new Messenger app. Davis said that if a parent decides to delete a child's account, Facebook will also delete any data from its own servers. On Messenger Kids website, Facebook said the app is compliant with child privacy laws like Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Facebook said it had "thought-provoking conversations" around parent controls and responsible online communication with organizations such as National PTA and Blue Star Families in shaping the app.

Facebook has taken a few more steps to ensure that Messenger Kids is not plagued with any loopholes.

Second, safety. An adult with a facebook account needs to create the child's account - which is not a Facebook account, but one specific to Messenger Kids - and they then need to approve all contacts. Parental permission is required to sign up for the app, she said.

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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. "The home screen shows them at a glance who they are approved to talk to, and when those contacts are online". "We appreciate that for now, the product is ad-free and appears created to put parents in control".

As with other tools Facebook has released in the past, intentions and real-world use do not always match up. These controls are accessible through the main Facebook app.

Above: Image of Messenger Kids provided by Facebook.

It's "The Social Network" meets "Sesame Street". 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.

Children who feel they are being bullied can report content or contacts. The app is launching for iPhone immediately, but will eventually come to Android and Amazon Fire devices. Facebook also said it will not automatically move users to the regular Messenger or Facebook when they get old enough, though the company may provide them the option to move contacts to Messenger down the line. The app has kids friendly masks, frames, stickers and GIFs for interactive conversations.

Facebook also said that it will block children from sharing nudity, sexual or violent content, and have a dedicated moderation team to respond to flagged content.

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