Facebook Launches Messenger App aimed at Children
Facebook yesterday announced a new version of its Messenger chat app, Messenger Kids designed for children ages 6 to 12. The new app does not require a Facebook account — due to federal law, users under the age of 13 cannot legally sign up for Facebook.
The new app requires parents to manage a child’s Messenger Kids app from their Facebook account, controlling which friends and family members the child is able to contact
Facebook also made it known that its taken measures to make sure the app does not become exploitative. “There are no ads in Messenger Kids and your child’s information isn’t used for ads. It is free to download and there are no in-app purchases,” the company writes in a blog post.
Facebook says Messenger Kids is also designed to be compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act, or COPPA. That’s the federal law that protects underage children from exploitation online, and it’s the reason so many online services require children be 13 years of age or older in order to sign up.
The company announced that the new app is only available in the US, with plans to expand its availability beyond iOS to the Amazon App Store and Google Play Store in the coming months.
Messenger Kids is primarily designed to offer video and text chat along with the types of playful masks and filters, originally popularized by Snapchat, that are now prevalent across Facebook’s many messaging products. Facebook says there is a “library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools lets them decorate content and express their personalities.
To use the app, parents must download it from the App Store and then authenticate it with their Facebook user name and password. Only then can an account be created for a child, with the process requiring only a name for the profile. Contacts are added through an “Explore” section of the app that should let parents search and find other contacts. Users with existing Facebook accounts, like relatives, can create Messenger Kids accounts to chat with the children, with parents having control over which contacts are approved and show up as online when a child uses the app.