Facebook launches Messenger Kids app for under-13s


"The goal is not to get kids onto Facebook", David Marcus, the head of Messenger, told BuzzFeed News.

The app, called Messenger Kids, allows children to send messages and photos and video chat with specific contacts that have been approved by their parents.

To target kids, you need to target the parents - and that's what Facebook is doing now with Messenger.

The app is now available as a preview, and Facebook says that it has worked with parents and groups such as the National PTA to ensure safety.

A new report from TechCrunch says the free app is aimed at kids under 13, who can't yet have their own accounts under Facebook's rules, though they often do. They can communicate with Messenger Kids users through their existing Messenger app. You have a lot of say over who your kids connect with thanks to Messenger Kids so you won't have to worry about online predators or anything similar. The app also gives parents the ability to control a child's contact list, while a more spartan home screen shows pre-approved friends that are online and preexisting one-on-one chats and group threads. In order to befriend another child in Messenger Kids, a parent must also be friends with that child's parent on Facebook. 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. It announced Monday morning that it would be launching a new messaging app for children.

Watch out for Messenger Kids in the app store over the next few days.

There's a simple reason Facebook is starting to focus on children: Kids are already using technology anyway. Messenger Kids is also created to be compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA).

Major tech firms have recently released more products that allow children to use their products within the limits of the privacy law - and reach more of the country's 48.8 million children under the age of 13 in the process.

While on the surface Messenger Kids seems relatively innocuous, the underlying motive here can not go unmentioned.

"We want to help ensure the experiences our kids have when using technology are positive, safer, and age- appropriate, and we believe teaching kids how to use technology in positive ways will bring better experiences later as they grow", the company said. It was a limited version of its main app and didn't let users send or receive photos or add friends.

Children can block and report anything that makes them feel uncomfortable, which will immediately notify parents.

Parents have to use their Facebook email address and password to activate their child's account, but that does not log a parent into their child's device. Facebook says the new app is only available in the United States, with plans to expand its availability beyond iOS to the Amazon App Store and Google Play Store in the coming months.