How young is too young to be on Facebook? Only the children aged 13 and above are allowed to use this app. But according to studies, more than 20 million kids under 13-years are estimated to be using Facebook.
So, Facebook announced a new version of messenger app specially designed for kids between 6 to 12. Named Messenger Kids, this new app for children doesn’t require a facebook account to sign up because the federal law doesn’t allow kids under 13-year-old to legally sign-up for Facebook. Rather, their parents will manage the Messenger Kids app from their Facebook account allowing them to control which family and friends contacts their child will be able to contact.
“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 Loren Cheng, product manager for Messenger Kids.
“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 the people who were going to use it, as well as experts who could help guide our thinking.”
Messenger Kids offers features for kids to video, text chat and use playful filters like the ones in Snapchat and Instagram. It also contains a “library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools lets them decorate content and express their personalities.” The kids can use these features of the app on their iPad or phone to contact their grandparents or parents at work and friends. Parents can fully control the contact list through the Messenger Kids Controls panel in their main Facebook app and their kids can’t connect with contacts their parent does not approve.
How to Get Started?
To get started parents must download it from the app store and set up the app with their FB login credentials username and password. Then they can finish the setup process by entering the child’s name. After creating the account parents have to go to the Messenger Kids parental controls panel in their main Facebook app, click “More” in the bottom right corner and then “Messenger Kids” in the Explore section to add people in the child’s approved contact list.
One thing that comes to our mind when talking about Messenger for Kids is that is it secure? Facebook ensures that the app doesn’t have exploitative content. “There are no ads in Messenger Kids and your child’s information isn’t used for ads. It is free to download and there are no in-app purchases,” the company writes in a blog post. Facebook says that the app is designed to be compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act, or COPPA which is a federal law that protects underage children from exploitation online.
“A messenger app for kids under 13 that only parents can sign them up for sounds like a nice idea on its face,” said James Steyer, the organization’s chief executive.
“But without clear policies about data collection, what happens to the content children post, and plans for the future, it is impossible to fully trust the platform.
“We appreciate that for now, the product is ad-free and appears designed to put parents in control. But why should parents simply trust that Facebook is acting in the best interest of kids?”
Facebook has a tentative support for what it’s doing and it knows that any harmful content that gets displayed in its Messenger Kids will run the firm into a pitfall just like how Google was caught up by the pitfall when disturbing videos and sexually inappropriate comments aimed at kids were displayed in YouTube.
It took 18 months to develop Messenger Kids and Facebook says their goal was to create a messaging app that puts parents at the center because children use those kinds of apps anyway.
However, the Messenger Kids is only available in the US, with plans to expand its availability beyond iOS to the Amazon App Store and Google Play Store in the coming months.