Facebook launches messaging app for under 13s

Facebook Launches a Version of Messenger For Young Children

EN_Interview_1-20171206-WIE10The Facebook messenger app for children provides strict parental controls.

The free app is aimed at kids under 13, who can't yet have their own accounts under Facebook's rules, though they often do.

Facebook is coming for your kids. 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.

Face the facts, you have to be over 13 to open a Facebook account so what tons of kids do, sometimes with a nod from their parents, is lie about their age.

While children do use messaging and social media apps designed for teenagers and adults, those services aren't built for them, said Kristelle Lavallee, a children's psychology expert who advised Facebook on designing the service.

"Isolating them from tech doesn't help prepare them for life in the world but we need to help them be aware, reflective and flexible within and between digital and analog environments", she added.

She cited research that shows some 93 percent of USA kids ages six to 12 have access to tablets or smartphones - and 66 percent have their own device, often using apps meant for teens and adults. It's a hard decision as to when your children are old enough to be given a certain amount of Internet freedom and many parents are likely to prefer to do this in a controlled manner compared to the alternative of free rein on the adult Internet. Facebook's live video streaming feature, for example, has been used for plenty of innocuous and useful things, but also to stream crimes and suicides. The problem with this logic is it simply accepts that kids will spend hours buried in these apps.

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Stephen Balkam, CEO of the nonprofit Family Online Safety Institute, said "that train has left the station".

Jeremy Hunt, Britain's health minister, has taken to social media to accuse Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg of reneging on a promise to prevent underage use on his site.

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.

"Many of us at Facebook are parents ourselves, and it seems we weren't alone when we realized that our kids were getting online earlier and earlier", the spokesperson said. Some younger children have, however, already managed to get around this by giving false dates of birth to open accounts.

Messenger Kids is launching Monday in the USA on Apple devices - the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

According to TechCrunch, Facebook will not be directly monetizing the kids app, but hopes they will become dedicated Facebook users in the future.

For the first time, Facebook is now offering a solution for kids to use its messaging platform, introducing Messenger Kids.

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