Facebook launches messenger for kids

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Kids can only message other Facebook users approved by the adult.

The company spent months talking to parenting groups, child behavioral experts and safety organizations to develop the app, which should be compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act. Facebook plans to release Android and Amazon versions next year.

But instead of forbidding your kids from using ubiquitous social networking services like Facebook or Facebook Messenger, you could try setting up a limited account for them.

There are no adverts or in-app purchases and the social network said the child's information will not be used for advertising purposes. For starters, Messenger Kids doesn't require the creation of a Facebook account - instead, parents will create a Messenger Kids account for their child using their own Facebook account.

Facebook Messenger Kids "makes parents the gatekeepers" and was designed "with the best of intentions", Lavallee said. Plus, it's FUN for kids to use!

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 USA, as well as the United Kingdom and Australia. From there, parents will be able to add and remove contacts to a child's account.

"Messenger Kids is full of features for kids to connect with the people they love".

Dr. Lewis Bernstein, former executive vice president of Education, Research and Outreach for the Sesame Workshop, compares the development of Messenger Kids over the last 18 months to those early years of developing "Sesame Street", the long-running, iconic show that now airs on HBO and re-airs on PBS. The new app gives it a chance to win brand loyalty from younger children at a time when it faces competition for teenagers from other social media platforms such as Snapchat.

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

The service is ad-free but Facebook notes it still collects data about users and their communications in its privacy policy.

Kristelle Lavallee, a children's psychology expert who advised Facebook on designing the service, called it a "useful tool" but also noted, "The risk of exposure to things they were not developmentally prepared for is huge".

If your kids are going to message friends and family, wouldn't you rather have them do it safely and securely? Every child account on Messenger Kids must be set up by a parent. In order to befriend another child in Messenger Kids, a parent must also be friends with that child's parent on Facebook. The company, in its post, said the kids can have access to social media with parental control.

Facebook has taken a few more steps to ensure that Messenger Kids is not plagued with any loopholes.

Facebook says it won't automatically move users to the regular Messenger or to Facebook when they get old enough.

But kids can't sign up on their own.

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