Hi-Tech

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

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

"To give kids and parents a fun, safer solution, we built Messenger Kids, a standalone app that lives on kids' tablets or smartphones but can be controlled from a parent's Facebook account". It announced Monday morning that it would be launching a new messaging app for children. 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.

The move opens up a new way for Facebook to compete with Snap's disappearing-photo and chat app, which is popular among younger teenagers.

"Safety is absolutely the most important concern [and] being able to [know] who they're using the device with", Loredana Crisan, Facebook Messenger's product design director, told CNN Tech.

"There are no ads in Messenger Kids and your child's information isn't used for ads", Cheng wrote.

Once Messenger Kids has been set up, your child can make video calls and send messages to any of the contacts you've approved.

All parental controls for Messenger Kids can be found through the main Facebook app, by the way.

The app is now available as a preview, and Facebook says that it has worked with parents and groups such as the National PTA to ensure safety. What children don't have access to is social networks like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and YouTube. When detected (or if, given Facebook's shoddy moderating history), such content will be scrubbed from the app.

Facebook says it has also screened all the stickers and other graphics to ensure they are age-appropriate, and there are no ads.




If a kid wants to chat with a friend from school, for example, her parent would need to be Facebook friends with a parent of the other child, and the two parents would need to agree to a connection request.

Both kids and parents can block contacts at any time.

The application is available for preview in the USA and will roll out to iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch initially.

"Messenger Kids is full of features for kids to connect with the people they love".

"American parents are really protective of their young kids' privacy and social interactions", said Jenny Radesky, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of MI, C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

"The reality is that kids are going to go use apps if they're under 13", he said. That's because kids can't create a Messenger Kids account - or add any new contacts - without parental approval. Facebook won't migrate kids over to its "adult" apps when children reach that age, but it's easy to see that happening on its own. It was a limited version of its main app and didn't let users send or receive photos or add friends.

"It's really hard to keep the control over who [kids] communicate with, how they communicate, what tools are at their disposal", said David Marcus, head of Facebook Messenger.


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