Facebook's Newest App Is a Chat Service for Kids

Facebook's Newest App Is a Chat Service for Kids

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. For years, major tech firms such as Facebook complied with COPPA by not allowing those under 13 to have accounts.

The social network giant said children between the ages of 6 and 11 are most likely to gravitate toward the standalone app, raising concerns about its safety in the hands of such youngsters.

Most kids tend to use tablets or iPod Touches that don't have phone numbers, so normal texting and video chats are a no-go (unless it's with mommy's phone, which isn't always great for mommy). The company says the application is compatible with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act. From there, parents will be able to add and remove contacts to a child's account.

Setting up a Messenger Kids account for a child requires their parent to sign in at first with their Facebook accounts. Messenger Kids might be Facebook's way of reversing that trend by capturing users even earlier.

The app, which is rolling out as a preview to iOS with Android coming later, is only available in the USA for the timebeing.

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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.

She said that research has shown that social media can be a detriment to children's brain, emotional and physical development.

In a lengthy post, Facebook product management director Loren Cheng wrote that the social network worked with parenting experts to develop a platform that would allow kids to "connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want". Kids can only message other Facebook users approved by the adult. Among them: Will it always remain ad-free, and will parents get ads based on the service? Despite US federal law prohibiting companies from collecting personal information on those under 13 years old without parental consent, millions are already on Facebook, with or without their parents' permission, says Stephen Balkam, chief executive of the nonprofit Family Online Safety Institute.

The Fountas family got a chance to try out the app. 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.

The application is available for preview in the U.S. and will roll out to iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch initially. Oh, and don't worry about ads, child info harvested for ads, installation costs or in-app purchases. A recent study from Common Sense Media found that parents are more skeptical of the benefits of social media for their children then they are of smartphones or even wearable devices. And approved adults can chat with the child using regular Messenger. And, a library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools lets them decorate their content and express their personalities.

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