Technology

Facebook Introduces Messenger Kids, A Chat App For Kids Under 13

Facebook has come up with a Messenger for Kids, a chat app specifically designed for kids under 13 years old. Dubbed as Messenger Kids, the app enables preteens to safely communicate with their parents and friends, claims the company.

Facebook Messenger Kids
Image Source: Facebook (screenshot)

Messenger Kids – has Facebook plugged all loopholes?

Facebook has started rolling out the new app in the U.S., allowing kids who are otherwise restricted by age to join the social networking site. The company stated that they have consulted hundreds of parent and children advocates, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, before coming up with Messenger Kids.

“Whether it’s using video chat to talk to grandparents, staying in touch with cousins who live far away, or sending mom a decorated photo while she’s working late to say hi, Messenger Kids opens up a new world of online communication to families,” Loren Cheng, product management director at Facebook, said in a blog post.

To ensure that the app does not meddle in any controversy, consent of a parent is important before registering for the app or adding new contacts. The app, which does not require a phone number for making an account, rules out the possibility of anyone outside the contact list from connecting with the kid.

To activate the account for their kids, parents need to enter their Facebook email address and password. Facebook noted that proper privacy and security measures have been put in place to assure parents have full transparency and control over their kid’s online activities. Facebook says it has inserted special proactive detection safety filters to prevent kids from sharing sexual content, nudity or violence. Also, a dedicated support team would respond to reported or flagged content.

Facebook has taken a few more steps to ensure that Messenger Kids is not plagued with any loopholes. Kids will have to give only their first and last name to register, and whatever data Facebook collects would be kept separate from Facebook’s other data. The social networking giant also made it clear that Messenger Kids accounts would not transition into a usual Facebook account when a child turns 13. Further, there would be no advertisements in Messenger Kids, and parents would be able to communicate with Messenger Kids using their existing Messenger app.

Defense in advance

Sensing it could face criticism for developing a product that would help convert kids to regular Facebook users after they turn thirteen, Facebook cleverly prepared a defense in advance, notes The Verge.

In a separate blog post, named “Hard Questions,” Facebook’s Public Policy Director Antigone Davis writes, “Children today are online earlier and earlier. They use family-shared devices — and many, as young as six or seven years old, even have their own.”

To support this, Davis talked about a study by Facebook in collaboration with the National PTA. The study, which covered 1,200 American parents of kids under the age of 13, found that three out of every five agreed that their kids are already using messaging apps. So, by introducing Messenger Kids, Facebook is implying that it is actually helping parents, who can now at least control the accounts of their kids.