Facebook launches parent-controlled Messenger app for kids

Dec 05, 2017, 01:14
Facebook launches parent-controlled Messenger app for kids

Right now, you can only do that in a feature-crippled Messenger Kids app available as a preview on USA iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches, but a Google Play and Amazon App Store expansion will definitely happen "in the coming months", and the general concept might be something worth exploring for the larger Facebook platform as well.

"The parent really is helping to establish that social community", said Antigone Davis, Facebook's head of global security and families. But first, kids must get a parental approval. This doesn't create a Facebook account for the child or give them access to the parent's account.

However, critics of this new messenger app are voicing their concern over how Facebook is pursuing the next generation of users by targeting children. The app has also been designed with privacy laws like the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act in mind. But with technology moving deeper into the home and many firms looking for more growth, children have become a more attractive market. 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. Kids also are not allowed to delete conversations so adults can monitor their children's devices.

"I think it's very important that parents know who their kids are talking to".

Facebook's expansion into this market raised some alarm bells.

"We urge Facebook to make its policies loud and clear - will the product remain ad-free? But why should parents simply trust that Facebook is acting in the best interest of kids?" said Jim Steyer, executive director of Common Sense Media, in a statement.

The data it will collect is "to do things like display the previous messages in a conversation, to put most frequent contacts at the top of the contact list". To get there, click on "More" on the bottom right corner in your main Facebook app, and click "Messenger Kids" in the Explore section.

Authenticate: Then, authenticate your child's device using your own Facebook username and password.

How - and if - the app ends up getting used remains to be seen. "So it's not like anyone else can look up your child", she said.

Messenger Kids, which is rolling out in the United States in the Apple app store, is a standalone product.

According to Davis' pitch it seems that Facebook intends to highlight that with Messenger Kids parents can at least control what their children are doing with the app. Kids don't need a phone number for creating an account. The company has no plans to release a similar kids-only platform for its other main social network, Instagram.

Parents would set up "Messenger Kids" through their Facebook account and approve the people that their children are chatting with while using the service. Facebook says it will have an Android version of the app ready to go soon, but for now, kids are limited to chatting on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.

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