Facebook's new messaging app deepens debate over kids' social media use


Today, parents are increasingly allowing their children to use tablets and smartphones, but often have questions and concerns about how their kids use them and which apps are appropriate. Rival platforms targeting youngsters, such as Snapchat, are also struggling to counter such threats, but typically, the golden rule for most parents is to keep their kids off social media apps and monitor their internet access.

Facebook now has a messaging app for kids - its first product aimed at young children, putting the social network at the heart of the ongoing debate about how and when children should start their online lives.

Children aged 6-12 are allowed to use Messenger Kids, which is now only available for users in the United States. To add people to your child's approved contact list, you can access the Messenger Kids parental controls panel within your main Facebook app by clicking on "More" at the bottom right corner in your main Facebook app, and then by clicking on "Messenger Kids" in the explore section.

Created to be compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) which forbids children under the age of 13 from giving out their personal information without a parent's permission, every child account on Messenger Kids must be set up by a parent.

Kids will not show up in Facebook search results, so if a kid wants to chat with a friend, the parent will have to work with the friend's parent to get them both approved.

The company has stated that there will be no ads on Messenger Kids and that children's data will not be used for ads.

Facebook on Monday announced it would be rolling out a preview of Messenger Kids in the United States, a new parent-controlled app to make it easier for kids to video chat and message with loved ones. Thus, instead of signing into Facebook, they can communicate with their family or friends via Messenger Kids. From there, kids can dive instantly into a video chat or text thread with their contacts. Parents must approve all requests before people can connect with the child. The app does not contain ads and is free of in-app purchases. "Sometimes after 5 or 10 minutes it's really hard to have a sustained conversation with a 7-year-old", but kids can joke around with Grampa using the selfie filters when they run out of run-on stories to tell them. Facebook actually manually selected a set of GIFs that kids can use rather than relying on a third-party startup to tag things well enough.

With the ACCC already breathing down its neck, Facebook has come out with its newest ploy - Messenger Kids.

Those companies, in turn, must have their own privacy policies to protect children, the app's privacy policy said.

While Facebook said in the briefing that the app was designed for kids age 6 to 12, younger kids are allowed on, too. Parents won't be able to spy on their kids' chats. They'll still have to build a traditional Facebook account from scratch when they're ready. Whether it's using video chat to talk to grandparents, staying in touch with cousins who live far away, or sending mom a decorated photo while she's working late to say hi, Messenger Kids opens up a new world of online communication to families.