Monday, 11 December, 2017

Facebook Launches New Messenger App for Young Kids-What Could Possibly Wrong?

Vladimir SmirnovĀ  Getty Images Vladimir SmirnovĀ  Getty Images
June Sullivan | 05 December, 2017, 02:18

"Many of us at Facebook are parents, and naturally we're thinking about technology's role in the lives of children and families", Antigone Davis, Facebook's Public Policy Director and Global Head of Safety, wrote in an article in Facebook's Newsroom addressing the new Messenger app.

Messenger Kids will be downloaded onto a child's device but will be controlled by the parent.

A screenshot for the Facebook Messenger kids app.

Facebook said there will be plenty of safeguards built into Messenger Kids. Then, children can text chat or video message the contacts, using child-friendly emoji, gifs and Snapchat-like filters and masks. Facebook also said it will not automatically move users to the regular Messenger or Facebook when they get old enough, though the company may provide them the option to move contacts to Messenger down the line.

Messenger Kids is the product of over 12 months of development by the Messenger team, which also spoke to hundreds of parents, primarily in the US, as well as the United Kingdom and Australia. Parents manager their child's account through their own Facebook page.

Messenger Kids may be completely separate from Facebook's other apps, but a lot of the parental management happens through Facebook. Facebook said it has also created privacy and security measures to give parents transparency and control over their kids' online activities. Facebook said it was fully compliant with the US Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act, and that it had worked with online safety experts including the National PTA and Blue Star Families.

Facebook said it will collect some data, including a child's name, the content of their messages and data about how the app is being used - even if it is not as extensive as the information it asks from adults. It will be soon available for Android and Amazon Kindle devices. "A child does not have the cognitive maturity or impulse control to properly manage their time and use on digital platforms", Hempe said.

He said Facebook is trying to deal with the situation pragmatically by steering young Facebook users to a service designed for them.

Parents have to be Facebook friends with the parents of any kid that their kid wants to talk to, a Facebook product manager said at a press briefing, according to BuzzFeed.

Messenger Kids offers an opportunity to introduce children to the wider Facebook ecosystem, fending off advances from rivals targeting children and teenagers, while locking parents and family into the social network to communicate with their children. That is still restricted to children age 13 and up.

Now the app is only available for iOS, although Android support is expected.

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