After talking to thousands of parents, associations like National PTA, and parenting experts in the USA, we found that there's a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want. But the app could prime kids to become lifelong Facebook users, and lock their families deeply into the platform where they'll see ads.
The free service, called Messenger Kids, must be activated by the child's parents.
The preview app may be downloaded from the App Store using an iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone.
Just as vocal are parents such as Parker Thompson of Alameda, California, who said children's adoption of technology is an inevitability and who appreciated Facebook's approach with the new app. 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. The app will seek for the approval of parents for both activating an account as well as to add a new contact.
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Facebook says the app complies with United States child online privacy laws and contains no adverts.
In June, The Information reported Facebook was working on an app for teens called Talk, though that's a bit different than this pre-teen Messenger Kids app. He also said the company would not automatically convert children's accounts to adult accounts when they turned 13. "In other apps, they can contact anyone they want or be contacted by anyone", Facebook's head of Messenger David Marcus notes.
The Facebook app, which aims to give children access to Messenger while still allowing parental control, was questioned by some media organizations and experts during its release earlier this week. "Kid-appropriate" emoji, masks, and sound effects are also included in the app. Messenger Kids is interoperable with the main Messenger app, so adults don't actually have to download the Kids app.
After downloading the app, parents need to authenticate their children's devices by inputting their username and password. They'll still have to build a traditional Facebook account from scratch when they're ready. Parents can then create a profile for the child as an extension of their own Facebook account. Then the device can be handed over to the child so they can start chatting with the family and friends you approve. To get there, click on "More" on the bottom right corner in your main Facebook app, and click "Messenger Kids" in the Explore section.
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Facebook says that the Messenger Kids app will not have any ads, and promises that your child's information won't be used for ads. "We appreciate that for now, the product is ad-free and appears created to put parents in control".
The creation of Messenger Kids is not an isolated initiative, rather it comes as part of a conscious push from the social media megaforce to increase its presence amongst youths.
This preview of Messenger Kids is only available in the USA at this time on the Apple App Store, and will be coming to Amazon App Store and Google Play Store in the coming months.
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