Facebook Debuts "Messenger Kids" - JC Sweet & Co.

Facebook Debuts New Messenger App That’s Only For Kids

Social media is a wonderful tool for business owners, but in the real world, social media can be a little different when it comes to personal use, especially when it’s children who are using social media. This article JC Sweet & Co. found on Forbes discusses the new Facebook Messenger App, which is strictly for kids.

Facebook Debuts New Messenger App That’s Only For Kids

About 93% of six to 12-year-olds in the U.S. have access to tablets or smartphones, and more than half have their own device, typically one without a phone number, according to research firm Dubit. In a push to make messaging safer and more age-appropriate, Facebook is launching a standalone version of the 1.3-billion person Messenger app — only for kids.

“Messenger Kids”

The new app, “Messenger Kids,” started rolling out on iOS mobile devices in the U.S. on Monday in English. Facebook expects the app to become available nationwide by the end of 2017 and on Android and Kindle in 2018. “Kids” is designed primarily to protect children from communicating with strangers and potentially harmful people or bullies, while emphasizing video chat and playful masks and effects. Parents must set up their kids’ accounts and use their main Facebook app username and log in to approve each device the child uses. Then, parents must individually approve or decline contact requests through the “Messenger Kids Controls” panel in the main Facebook app. For example, if a child wants to connect with her classmate, each child’s parent must first approve the connection, and both parents need to be friends. If a parent removes a contact, kids can’t have contact with the individual again without approval. The system does not allow people to search for kids.

Photos, videos or messages sent by kids to their parents appear in parents’ regular Messenger app, so parents’ don’t need to download an additional version. Facebook said it expects the typical “Kids” user to be between ages six and 11 years old. The app also features resources for parents about how to have conversations with their children about online safety, as well as tools to alert parents if their child has been exposed to inappropriate content, particularly nudity, graphic content or bullying. There is also a feature to help parents control the time children spend on the app.

“We hear overwhelmingly that parents are looking for more control,” Antigone Davis, Facebook’s head of global safety and families, said in a briefing. Davis noted that about 75% of parents whose kids use messaging apps say they want more oversight. “We have an opportunity and an obligation as one of the largest social media companies to get this right.”

Facebook Monitoring

Artificial intelligence technology will automatically scan kids’ conversations to identify offensive or harmful content, and a specialized, 24-7 human moderation team will review every piece of flagged material in the app, said Facebook, “tougher” than the standards that affect the main Facebook app. Facebook said the moderations tools are sensitive to subtleties in how kids communicate, and that it will remove accounts that “repeatedly violate” its policies. “Kids,” which is free, will be ad-free and won’t feature any in-app purchases. The won’t be used to gather ad-targeting data on children or parents, the company said. Facebook said it plans to release the app widely over time.

Before building the product, Facebook created an advisory committee with individuals with expertise in child development, child and media health and internet safety from organizations such as Connect Safely and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Facebook said it expects parents to monitor kids’ conversations on the app by looking at the child’s actual device (parents cannot read kids’ conversations through the main Messenger app). Kids are not able to hide or delete any messages, but can potentially send or receive outside links, Facebook said. The app is designed to be compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act. Facebook said it started seriously working on the new app about 18 months ago and has since spoken to thousands of parents across the country. A Facebook study completed with the National PTA found among about 1,200 American parents surveyed, 81% said their children started using social media between the ages of eight and 13.

In addition to prioritizing safety, Facebook also launched the sister app with a revamped design and kid-friendly features like Instagram- and Snapchat-like masks, emojis, stickers, frames, drawing tools, GIFs and sound effects that will be regularly updated. For the launch, Facebook partnered with the environmental nonprofit the World Wildlife Fund to create an underwater augmented reality experience that lets kids scuba-dive to explore the ocean. Unlike the flagship Messenger app, “Kids” makes video chat front and center on its home screen.

“Kids want in-the-moment communication,” product management director Loren Cheng said in a briefing. “Video chat is the cornerstone of Messenger Kids product.”

When kids turn 13 and become old enough to have a Facebook account, the company said it will not automatically migrate any of the child’s data over to any of their future Facebook-hosted accounts. The company will also not automatically create any Facebook accounts for kids when they turn 13.

Data within the “Kids” app will only be used for keywords and suggestions for now, Facebook noted. Over time, the app will likely grow to include a host of games, educational tools, video content and translation into multiple languages.


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