Facebook rolls out messenger app for kids

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"One of the things we found over and over again is that kids look at communications as play, and so we wanted to make this as playful as possible", said Loren Cheng, Facebook's director of product management.

"Many of us at Facebook are parents, and naturally we're thinking about technology's role in the lives of children and families", Antigone Davis, Facebook's Public Policy Director and Global Head of Safety, wrote in an article in Facebook's Newsroom addressing the new Messenger app.

Messenger Kids is a training wheels version of its full-fledged product - which will allow children to exchange messages and photos with friends and family as well as video chats.

The Messenger Kids app on an iPad. Messenger Kids is designed as a legal way for kids to participate.

"Why should parents simply trust that Facebook is acting in the best interest of kids?" My guess is, probably the hell not-not when so many kids have their own personal devices that connect to the internet. The new app gives it a chance to win brand loyalty from younger children at a time when it faces competition for teenagers from other social media platforms such as Snapchat.

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The Internet can be a scary, unsafe place for children, even when parents go to great lengths to control what content, videos, apps and games their offsprings are allowed to access on specially designed tablets and wearable devices. There are no advertisements or in-app purchases in the app, and Facebook says it can detect certain types of abusive content and prevent it from appearing in Messenger Kids.

"They're finally coming to grips with the fact that a service, which was created for college kids, is now being used by everyone", he said. However, several reports have surfaced showing inappropriate videos streaming through to kids.

The social network giant said children between the ages of 6 and 11 are most likely to gravitate toward the standalone app, raising concerns about its safety in the hands of such youngsters. It's completely independent of the flagship Facebook and Messenger apps, and is compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act.

Facebook is launching a new version of its chat app targeting children under 13 with strict parental controls including contact approvals. It also includes a GIFs section for choosing images to send to friends, but content in the section is regulated by Facebook. Parents who set up the service won't be creating a Facebook account for their kids.

It's worth noting here that Facebook itself remains closed to those under 13 years of age. That's simple really: It's all about getting kids on board earlier so that they are "Facebook-aware" by the time they hit 13.

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