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article imageFacebook launches new messaging app for kids

By James Walker     Dec 4, 2017 in Technology
Facebook's announced a new version of Messenger aimed specifically at kids. The app comes with a selection of features available in the main Messenger download and gives parents the ability to take control. Contacts can be approved before they're added.
Facebook said the app is supposed to give kids and parents a "fun, safer solution" to staying connected online. It allows kids to communicate digitally while handing parents the option of approving contacts. This helps to address some of the concerns around young children using smartphone apps.
Contacts whitelist
Child users of Messenger Kids cannot communicate with others until each individual has been added to the contacts list. Before a new contact makes it to the whitelist, a parent has to explicitly approve the connection. Parents can review contact requests inside a new Messenger Kids Controls settings area inside the main Facebook app.
Facebook Messenger Kids
Facebook Messenger Kids
Facebook
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Once approved contacts have been added, kids can message each other using a subset of the main Messenger features. There's support for video chats, masks and drawing tools, as well as a limited selection of "kid-appropriate" GIFs and stickers. Most of Messenger's adult capabilities, such as payments and digital assistance, are unavailable in Messenger Kids.
According to Facebook, Messenger Kids is meant to be a way of introducing children to digital communication in a safe and accessible way. The company argued that the app's protections against child predators and online exploitation make it suitable for kids as young as six. If successful, the app could give Facebook access to a new demographic of very young users, ready to convert to full Messenger accounts once they turn 13.
"Questions and concerns"
Facebook consulted with parents and child safety experts while it developed the app. Outside organisations including National PTA and Blue Star Families have provided guidance for the project. Facebook said it welcomed the input and involved parents and families from the outset.
"Today, parents are increasingly allowing their children to use tablets and smartphones, but often have questions and concerns about how their kids use them and which apps are appropriate," said Facebook. "So when we heard about the need for better apps directly from parents during research and conversations with parents, we knew we needed to develop it alongside with the people who were going to use it, as well as experts who could help guide our thinking."
Facebook Messenger Kids
Facebook Messenger Kids
Facebook
Messenger Kids is available in preview form today on the App Store. It's initially available for the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone but will be expanded to Android devices "in the coming months."
Facebook pledged that Messenger Kids meets the privacy standards set out under the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) and comes without ads. Interested families can get more information on the Messenger Kids website.
More about Facebook, facebook messenger, messenger kids, Messaging, Online safety
 
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