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Facebook launches parent-controlled Messenger app for kids


Published: Tue, December 5, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m.

Associated Press

NEW YORK

Facebook is coming for your kids.

The social media giant is launching a messaging app for children to chat with their parents and with friends approved by their parents.

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.

Messenger Kids comes with a slew of controls for parents. The service won’t let children add their own friends or delete messages – only parents can do that. Kids don’t get a separate Facebook or Messenger account; rather, it’s an extension of a parent’s account. Messenger Kids came out Monday in the U.S. as an app for Apple devices – the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Versions for Android and Amazon’s tablets are coming later.

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.

“The risk of exposure to things they were not developmentally prepared for is huge,” she said.

Messenger Kids, meanwhile, “is a result of seeing what kids like,” which is images, emoji and the like. Face filters and playful masks can be distracting for adults, Lavallee said, but for kids who are just learning how to form relationships and stay in touch with parents digitally, they are ways to express themselves.

Facebook said Messenger Kids won’t show ads or collect data for marketing, though it will collect some data it says are necessary to run the service.


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