For the first time, Facebook is opening up to children under age 13 with a privacy-focused app designed to neutralize child predator threats that plague youth-focused competitors like Snapchat. Rolling out today on iOS in the U.S., "Messenger Kids" lets parents download the app on their child's phone or tablet, create a profile for them and approve friends and family with whom they can text and video chat from the main Messenger app.
"While we appreciate Facebook taking steps to protect this vulnerable population by including parental controls, establishing an ad-free environment and restricting some data collection, we remain concerned about where sensitive information collected through this app could end up and for what objective it could be used".
Messenger Kids is being trialled in the United States as a standalone app for a smartphone or tablet that is controlled from a parent's Facebook account and does not create a main Facebook profile for young users. "Facebook needs to provide assurances that this "walled garden" service they describe is fully protective of children".
Facebook has touted the app as a way for families to better connect and parents to keep their kids safe.
The senators' letter asked Facebook whether its committed to keeping Messenger Kids ad-free and what third-parties, if any, will have access to users' information, among other questions. Facebook is indeed coming for your kids. The app allows for users to engage in one-on-one or group chats, and send photos, videos or text messages to contacts. However, the parent's approval is needed before their names can actually appear on the authorized contact list.
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At P.S. 241 in Brooklyn, for example, Snoopy teamed up with codeSpark Academy to debut Snoopy Snow Brawl, a learn-to-code game. Under each block is a line of Java code and the students can "look under the hood" to see the actual code which is being used.
You can set your child up with a Messenger Kids account with four easy steps. Facebook has been working on Messenger Kids for the last 18 months, working closely with child development experts, educators, parents, and organizations including the National PTA and Blue Star Families. So if a child wants to be able to chat with one of their classmates, their parent must first friend that kid's parent, and then will see the option to approve that adult's child as a contact for their own kid. After downloading the Messenger Kids app on your child's iPad, iPod touch or iPhone from the App store, you're required to authenticate your child's device using your own Facebook username and password.
"I'm an avid social media user, but I don't feel my kids need more social interaction", said Quirion, 39, whose three children are between ages 3 and 9. "Sometimes after 5 or 10 minutes it's really hard to have a sustained conversation with a 7-year-old", but kids can joke around with Grampa using the selfie filters when they run out of run-on stories to tell them. It is free to download and there are no in-app purchases.
Created to be compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) which forbids children under the age of 13 from giving out their personal information without a parent's permission, every child account on Messenger Kids must be set up by a parent. According to a release, Facebook plans to release the app on other platforms such as the Amazon App Store, and the Google Play Store.
While some parents feel Facebook snaking its way into his children's lives at an early age would most likely do more harm than good some others think that technology going to be adopted by kids is inevitable.