The app, Messenger for Kids, will allow parents to have control over who their child chats or video calls with, as the app will be a part of the parents' own Facebook account.
Parents have to use their Facebook email address and password to activate their child's account, but that does not log a parent into their child's device.
As for why Facebook is launching the app, the company said in email that "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", citing an external study from Dubit that found that 93% of six to 12-year-olds in the U.S. have access to tablets or smartphones. Under current company rules, children under 13 can't be on Facebook, though many of them are. Loren Cheng, Facebook's product management director, said the company consulted with several groups including parents, experts in child development and children's media, in creating the app. 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. That's simple really: It's all about getting kids on board earlier so that they are "Facebook-aware" by the time they hit 13. Facebook says the app won't display ads.
According to Head of Messenger David Marcus, offering Messenger Kids is another way to give parents more control over what their children read, see and hear on smartphones and tablets, which have become commonplace inside and outside the home.
"Kids as young as 10 years old easily get 300 text messages a day from social media interactions; this is too stressful". Facebook noted that proper privacy and security measures have been put in place to assure parents have full transparency and control over their kid's online activities. The app is created to be compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA).
Facebook said the app will not feature in-app purchases or ads nor will the child's information be used for ads. Facebook plans to release Android and Amazon versions next year. It also includes a GIFs section for choosing images to send to friends, but content in the section is regulated by Facebook. And approved adults can chat with the child using regular Messenger.
"[Messenger Kids] doesn't overcome the issues of screen time and screen use and all the other issues that go with technology and kids", Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, told The Post.
Major tech firms have recently released more products that allow children to engage within the limits of the privacy law - and that reach more of the country's approximately 50 million children under the age of 13 in the process.
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