Facebook just found a new way to nab younger users.
The social network announced Monday that it’s launching a new app, Messenger Kids, which allows children to use Facebook’s messaging software — the first time the company has allowed children younger than 13 to have an official presence on any of its platforms.
Think of Messenger Kids as a kind of stripped-down version of the regular Messenger app, but with a bunch of extra parental controls. Kids can swap messages, video calls, selfies, GIFs, and stickers with people on their (parent-approved) friends list. The app is available now to iPhone users in the United States.
But because it’s a standalone service, Messenger Kids accounts are treated much differently than the typical Facebook account. There are no ads, and Facebook says it won’t hand over data from Messenger Kids to advertisers.
The social network has also done its best to wall off Messenger Kids accounts from Facebook’s main social graph — the only people who have the ability to see a child’s Messenger account are friends of their parents.
“Parents control every facet of it,” said Product Management Director at Facebook Loren Cheng.
Facebook said it spent the past 18 months talking with childhood development and safety experts to come up with a set of controls that will satisfy the majority of parents’ potential concerns.
Here’s what they came up with:
Additionally, Facebook has a dedicated team of reviewers who monitor reports from Messenger Kids accounts. The company also uses software that can automatically detect certain types of content, like nudity, and prevent it from being shared within the app
But even with those safeguards, the app will still likely raise concerns among some parents, particularly as supposedly kid-friendly services like YouTube Kids face a backlash for the prevalence of disturbing content.
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