Facebook debuts new Messenger app for kids 6 and up

Facebook's new chat app for kids makes parents approve conversations

Messenger Kids - a standalone app - could be installed on a kid's phone, tablet or computer and still be controlled from a parent's Facebook account. For years, major tech firms such as Facebook complied with COPPA by not allowing those under 13 to have accounts.

Adults can sign up using only a child's first and last names, giving kids access to a text and video messaging platform that works on tablets and smartphones.

So it comes as little surprise then that Facebook says the majority of parents with young children are concerned about their kids potentially interacting with strangers online.

Some parents told FOX10 they still won't let their kids use the app. Bethany Zitzmann said, "I appreciate the concept, but I don't see a need for children's between the ages of 6 and 12 to be on social media in general".

Also, unlike the regular version of Facebook, children under 13 on the app won't have Facebook accounts associated with their app. Facebook's current policy doesn't let individuals under 13 create accounts.

Right now, you can only do that in a feature-crippled Messenger Kids app available as a preview on USA iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches, but a Google Play and Amazon App Store expansion will definitely happen "in the coming months", and the general concept might be something worth exploring for the larger Facebook platform as well. Although Facebook remains the largest social network - and Messenger has grown into one of the most popular messaging platforms in the world - signing up new users now presents a new challenge, given how mature and wide-reaching they already are. Parents use their Facebook email and password to activate their child's account.

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Monday's unveiling was billed as a preview because so far it is only available in the United States and only on iOS, or Apple operating systems.

To ensure that the app does not meddle in any controversy, consent of a parent is important before registering for the app or adding new contacts. But the technology giant today announced a new version of the service that could bump its active user base up considerably.

Kristelle Lavallee, a children's psychology expert who advised Facebook on designing the service, called it a "useful tool" but also noted, "The risk of exposure to things they were not developmentally prepared for is huge".

It's "The Social Network" meets "Sesame Street". Parents have to do it for them.

The video chat places a big emphasis on interactive face filters that use frames, masks, stickers and emojis, as well as various sound effects.

The application is available for preview in the USA and will roll out to iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch initially. But she said that while Facebook made the app "with the best of intentions", it's not yet known how people will actually use it. "They want a level of control over their kids' digital world that is similar to the level they have in the real world", says Facebook's public policy director Antigone Davis.

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