Facebook unveils new messenger app for kids

An Associated Press reporter holds a mobile phone showing the Facebook Messenger app icon in San Francisco Wednesday

The account will be in Messenger Kids app and will automatically migrate to original Messenger account when they turn 13.

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

The parent-controlled app allows Mom and Dad to decide who their child can have on their contact list.Once a contact like a child's best friend or an aunt or cousin is added, they can chat freely with that person using the service. The company stated that they have consulted hundreds of parent and children advocates, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, before coming up with Messenger Kids.

Sounds entertaining... enough, but also safe and practical for parents constantly anxious with the perils of the open web. Facebook also cites an external study from Dubit, which found 93 percent of 6-12 year olds in the U.S. have access to tablets or smartphones, with many of them owning a device of their own. There will be none of that, at least to start with. The app, which launches Monday in the United States, gives the company access to a new market whose age prohibits them from using the firm's main social network. "We appreciate that for now, the product is ad-free and appears created to put parents in control".

It's worth noting here that Facebook itself remains closed to those under 13 years of age.

Facebook said there will be plenty of safeguards built into Messenger Kids.

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Facebook has been careful to comply with the law, said Kathryn Montgomery, a communications professor at American University and one of the main advocates who helped get COPPA passed. Amazon has also added kid-focused "skills" to its Echo smart speakers, which require a parent's permission to activate.

Kristelle Lavallee, a children's psychology expert who advised Facebook on designing the service, called it a "useful tool" but also noted, "The risk of exposure to things they were not developmentally prepared for is huge".

Bernstein says Facebook's development of Messenger Kids is a way of reaching today's young internet-infatuated children so they can connect with friends and family safely with parental oversight and collaboration.

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. 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.

"Kids as young as 10 years old easily get 300 text messages a day from social media interactions; this is too stressful". That means when a child reports a conversation that they find offensive or block an individual user in the app (or vice versa), the parent is notified on Facebook.

The video chat places a big emphasis on interactive face filters that use frames, masks, stickers and emojis, as well as various sound effects.

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