Facebook made a Messenger app that's just for kids

Facebook made a Messenger app that's just for kids

Facebook made a Messenger app that's just for kids

Messenger Kids users can do numerous same things users of the regular Messenger app can do - send text-based messages, video chat, tack on virtual stickers and face masks - but with stricter rules and parental controls in place.

Messenger Kids is a standalone app that lives on kids' tablets or smartphones but can be controlled from a parent's Facebook account.

After downloading Messenger Kids from Apple's App Store, all a Facebook-using adult needs to do is log into their own account, create a sub-account for their child, and add people to an approved contact list.

"The reality is that kids are going to go use apps if they're under 13", he said.

A Facebook spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo, "We've built automated systems that can detect things like nudity, violence, and child exploitative imagery to help limit that content from being shared on Messenger Kids". Parents will have to sign their children up for the service and have to approve any person their children communicate with. That's a departure from Facebook's approach in the past, as when it required users to download the separate Messenger app in 2014 in order to send direct messages on Facebook.

The Internet can be a scary, risky 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. The company also says Messenger Kids won't show ads or collect data for marketing. However, several reports have surfaced showing inappropriate videos streaming through to kids. "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 app has also been designed with privacy laws like the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act in mind.

Facebook also said that it will block children from sharing nudity, sexual or violent content, and have a dedicated moderation team to respond to flagged content. The app is launching for iPhone immediately, but will eventually come to Android and Amazon Fire devices. It's a restrictive system, but one that highlights how tricky it is to give children access to social media, and particularly an app that's operated by one of the world's largest (and most controversial) social media firms. The goal with "Sesame Street", which aired its first episode in 1969, was to educate children by taking advantage of their infatuation with the "powerful medium" of television.

Facebook, like other social media sites, requires that users be at least 13 years old to sign up for an account. Parents need to authenticate it to their own account before setting up the kids account.

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