Facebook Launches New Messenger App for Young Kids-What Could Possibly Wrong?

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"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.

Setting up the app requires an adult with a Facebook account, who can set up the child's profile and the initial list of friends and family members the child will be allowed to connect with on Messenger.

Facebook rolled out a new app targeting kids under thirteen Monday. Under current company rules, children under 13 can't be on Facebook, though many of them are.

Facebook said there will be plenty of safeguards built into Messenger Kids. 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. Facebook will also not use child's information for ads. Parents will have to sign their children up for the service and have to approve any person their children communicate with. More than 90 percent of children 6 to 12 have access to tablets or smartphones, and 66 percent of that same age group have either their own tablet or smartphone, according to numbers provided by Dubit, a consulting agency. But first, kids must get a parental approval.

"Right now for kids, the time they spend on devices is very passive", David Marcus, vice president for messaging products at Facebook, told the New York Times. Facebook said it was fully compliant with the US Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act, and that it had worked with online safety experts including the National PTA and Blue Star Families.

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

Dr. Lewis Bernstein, former executive vice president of Education, Research and Outreach for the Sesame Workshop, compares the development of Messenger Kids over the last 18 months to those early years of developing "Sesame Street", the long-running, iconic show that now airs on HBO and re-airs on PBS.

Now the app is only available for iOS, although Android support is expected.

Nikki Fountas said she loves being able to monitor her 10-year-old daughter Amelia's activity on the app. The app is launching for iPhone immediately, but will eventually come to Android and Amazon Fire devices.

He said Facebook is trying to deal with the situation pragmatically by steering young Facebook users to a service designed for them. The social network also is looking at building controls around how much time a child can spend on the app. "We're going to see how kids are using it, and that will allow us to add updates in future versions as necessary".

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