Why Facebook launched a Messenger app for kids

Facebook's new chat app for kids makes parents approve conversations

Right now Messenger Kids is designed for sending messages and video chatting, but Facebook hasn't ruled out the possibility of adding new features as it learns more about how people use the app. For years, major tech firms such as Facebook complied with COPPA by not allowing those under 13 to have accounts. It's completely independent of the flagship Facebook and Messenger apps, and is compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act.

Some parents told FOX10 they still won't let their kids use the app. Bethany Zitzmann said, "I appreciate the concept, but I don't see a need for children's between the ages of 6 and 12 to be on social media in general".

Parents receive notifications about requests and activity through their own Facebook app, as the child does not receive or create their own Facebook account.

Facebook's new chat app for kids makes parents approve conversations

Messages sent to adults or those over 13 appear in their normal Facebook Messenger app. Parents control contacts and other options through their Facebook app on their smartphone.

The parent-controlled app allows Mom and Dad to decide who their child can have on their contact list.Once a contact like a child's best friend or an aunt or cousin is added, they can chat freely with that person using the service.

Monday's unveiling was billed as a preview because so far it is only available in the United States and only on iOS, or Apple operating systems.

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She said that research has shown that social media can be a detriment to children's brain, emotional and physical development.

"We've engaged with over a dozen expert advisors in the areas of child development, online safety, and children's media and technology who've helped inform our approach to building our first app for kids", the Facebook announcement said. "I think if parents monitor something and they think it's okay for their kid, then it's okay for the parent". Will parents get ads based on the service?

The Fountas family got a chance to try out the app.

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The Messenger Kids app on an iPad. The social network also is looking at building controls around how much time a child can spend on the app.

An October study from Common Sense found that children 8 and under now average almost 2 ¹/₂ hours a day of screen time - with 48 of those minutes clocked from a mobile device. "They want a level of control over their kids' digital world that is similar to the level they have in the real world", says Facebook's public policy director Antigone Davis. Facebook says it has inserted special proactive detection safety filters to prevent kids from sharing sexual content, nudity or violence.

Android and Kinder versions are coming later according to Facebook. There are even kid-friendly GIFs, masks, and stickers they can use.

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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".

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