Facebook Now Targeting Kids With New Messaging App

Facebook Now Targeting Kids With New Messaging App

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

Messenger Kids functions like Facebook's normal messaging app with a few caveats: children using the app can only send age appropriate GIFs, their version has no ads or in-app purchases available and the account must be set up by a parent. Only then can an account be created for a child, with the process requiring only a name for the profile.

Loren Cheng, a product manager at Facebook who led the Messenger Kids project, said that the company actually has a dedicated team at Facebook who looks at all the reports, and will proactively ban any account that is seen as harmful.

Facebook Inc. unveiled a new version of its Messenger app for children, opening up a new front in its battle for younger users with Snap Inc. When a child sends a message through Messenger Kids, approved contacts will receive it through their regular 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 free app, called Messenger Kids, hopes to attract parents looking for a safe online chat service, with a greater level of parental control, child-friendly features, screened content and safety filters to prevent children sharing inappropriate content. Davis said that Facebook spoke with the Federal Trade Commission to ensure that the app is compliant with COPPA.

Facebook is now rolling out the app for iOS users in the USA, while the Android version is expected to launch soon.

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There's a simple reason Facebook is starting to focus on children: Kids are already using technology anyway. What children don't have access to is social networks like Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and YouTube. Facebook says Messenger Kids is also created to be compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act, or COPPA. But, per the app's privacy policy, Facebook reserves the right to share information with third parties, which must in turn prove to Facebook that they have strong privacy policies to protect children. Contacts are added through an "Explore" section of the app that should let parents search and find other contacts. Most of Messenger's adult capabilities, such as payments and digital assistance, are unavailable in Messenger Kids.

Facebook just released a preview of its first app built specifically for children.

Facebook's move is the latest from a tech behemoth that shows how technology companies are confronting the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

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

How - and if - the app ends up getting used remains to be seen. Parents have to do it for them. Facebook says the new app is only available in the U.S., with plans to expand its availability beyond iOS to the Amazon App Store and Google Play Store in the coming months.

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