Messenger Kids users can do numerous same things users of the regular Messenger app can do - send text-based messages, video chat, tack on virtual stickers and face masks - but with stricter rules and parental controls in place.
When kids chat with contacts that use the regular version of Facebook Messenger, like parents or relatives, their exchanges will appear as a normal message thread in the Messenger app for the recipient.
But Facebook says parents have complete control of the app, through their own accounts, from which they must approve all of their children's contacts before kids can begin chatting. And earlier in the year, the company introduced new tools to help parents stay better informed about what their kids are doing within FreeTime, its kid-friendly content service with a special whitelisted selection of games, apps, and books. Messenger Kids is designed as a legal way for kids to participate.
Messenger Kids, which is rolling out in the United States in the Apple app store, is a standalone product.
Messenger Kids is full of engaging and interactive features for kids to connect with the people they love. That's a departure from Facebook's approach in the past, as when it required users to download the separate Messenger app in 2014 in order to send direct messages on Facebook.
Facebook says Messenger Kids does not have ads or in-app purchases, and none of the information about the children will be used for ads. Kids also are not allowed to delete conversations so adults can monitor their children's devices.
She said, "For a child who is just now starting out in social media to have certain restrictions and parental guidance, that is important". Facebook said it was fully compliant with the US Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act, and that it had worked with online safety experts including the National PTA and Blue Star Families. The app is launching for iPhone immediately, but will eventually come to Android and Amazon Fire devices.
At the same time, parents were willing to let their children aged 6 to 12 use social media as long as there was strict parental control.
Children can block and report anything that makes them feel uncomfortable, which will immediately notify parents.
Above: Image of Messenger Kids provided by Facebook.
Facebook normally requires users to be at least 13 years old. Facebook has been focusing on capturing younger users as it faces competition from Snapchat. It's a restrictive system, but one that highlights how tricky it is to give children access to social media, and particularly an app that's operated by one of the world's largest (and most controversial) social media firms.
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