Facebook to launch chat app for kids, with parental controls

SAN FRANCISCO, United States – Facebook on Monday unveiled a
version of its Messenger application for children, aimed at
enabling kids under 12 to connect with others under parental
supervision.

Messenger Kids is being rolled out for Apple iOS mobile devices
in the United States on a test basis as a standalone video chat
and messaging app.

Product manager Loren Cheng said the social network leader is
offering Messenger Kids because “there’s a need for a messaging
app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has
the level of control parents want.”

Facebook said that the new app, with no ads or in-app
purchases, is aimed at 6- to 12-year-olds. It enables parents
to control the contact list and does not allow children to
connect with anyone their parent does not approve.

The social media giant added it designed the app because many
children are going online without safeguards.

“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,” a Facebook statement said.

It cited a study showing that 93 percent of 6- to 12-year-olds
in the US have access to tablets or smartphones, and two-thirds
have a smartphone or tablet of their own.

“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.

Facebook’s rules require that children be at least 13 to create
an account, but many are believed to get around the
restrictions.

Cheng said Facebook conducted its own research and worked with
“over a dozen expert advisors” in building the app.

She added that data from children would not be used for ad
profiles and that the application would be compliant with the
Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA).

“We’ve worked extensively with parents and families to shape
Messenger Kids and we’re looking forward to learning and
listening as more children and families start to use the iOS
preview,” Cheng said.

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