Facebook launches "Messenger Kids" app for children

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Facebook is releasing a new version of Messenger, its standalone messaging app, specifically for users under the age of 13 - those who are too young to use Facebook due to the site's age restrictions.

Facebook is now rolling out the app for iOS users in the United States, while the Android version is expected to launch soon.

The new app is called Messenger Kids, and Facebook is billing it as a way for preteens to safely communicate with parents and friends. Also kids don't get a separate Facebook or Messenger account, instead, it's an extension of a parent's account.

There are no ads in Messenger Kids, which Facebook says is created to be fully compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA).

READ NEXT:Experimental Windows 10 feature adds a whole new way to work Once approved contacts have been added, kids can message each other using a subset of the main Messenger features. "Is technology good for kids, or is it having adverse effects on their social skills and health?" and "do we know the long-term effects of screen time?" These controls are accessible through the main Facebook app.

Facebook said it had "thought-provoking conversations" around parent controls and responsible online communication with organizations such as National PTA and Blue Star Families in shaping the app.

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According to research conducted by Facebook and consultant firm Dubit, about 90% of kids between ages six to 12 have access to tablets or smartphones. The app gives parents control over how long their kids can use the app.

It is now only available on iOS in the United States, but will be rolled out to Google Play Store and Amazon App Store in the next few months. Facebook also said that it has filtering software and human moderators scouring the platform for inappropriate content that they will then remove. "It is free to download and there are no in-app purchases", the company writes in a blog post. In fact, all you need is your child's name to use the app. When a child sends a message through Messenger Kids, approved contacts will receive it through their regular Messenger app. There is no word about expanding the availability of the app to other countries at the moment.

"As a parent, I would not be interested in a messaging product for my kids", Radesky said. That's the federal law that protects underage children from exploitation online, and it's the reason so many online services require children be 13 years of age or older in order to sign up. Most of Messenger's adult capabilities, such as payments and digital assistance, are unavailable in Messenger Kids.

"We want to help ensure the experiences our kids have when using technology are positive, safer, and age- appropriate, and we believe teaching kids how to use technology in positive ways will bring better experiences later as they grow", the company said.

"You never know, until you put it out there, how it's going to be used and what unintended consequences there might be from what they created", Balkam said.

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