A messaging app for kids ages 6 to 12 to chat with friends and family.
Facebook today announced a new version of its Messenger chat app designed for children ages six to 12. Called Messenger Kids, the new app does not require a Facebook account — due to federal law, users under the age of 13 cannot legally sign up for Facebook. Rather, parents are able to manage a child’s Messenger Kids app from their Facebook account, controlling which friends and family members the child is able to contact. Facebook is launching the app today in preview with a limited rollout on iOS.
Thanks to the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) no one under the age of 13 is allowed to sign up for a Facebook account. Some kids still do sign up, but Facebook has needed a way to reach out to this younger generation without upsetting their parents for some time.
A Child-Friendly Version of Facebook Messenger
Cue Messenger Kids, which is a standalone app for that lost generation of potential Facebook users. Messenger Kids is a child-friendly version of the full Messenger app that Facebook claims“lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want”.
To use the app, parents must download it from the App Store and then authenticate it with their Facebook user name and password. Only then can an account be created for a child, with the process requiring only a name for the profile. Contacts are added through an “Explore” section of the app that should let parents search and find other contacts. Users with existing Facebook accounts, like relatives, can create Messenger Kids accounts to chat with the children, with parents having control over which contacts are approved and show up as online when a child uses the app.
There’s one-on-one group chat, child-friendly masks, emojis and GIFs, and the ability for kids to send photos, videos, and messages. But no ads. If a child wants to befriend another child, their parent will need to be friends with that child’s parent, which is a rather awkward workaround.
Messenger Kids is currently only available in preview on iOS to Facebook users in the U.S. However, Facebook hopes to expand Messenger Kids to Android and Amazon in the coming months, and then beyond the borders of the United States. Assuming the app works as advertised.
Messenger Kids Is Designed for Families
Messenger Kids looks to have been built with families in mind. Because a) the system for adding your child’s friends as contacts is a pain, and b) kids see Facebook as their parents’ and grandparents’ social network. Tech-savvy children are more likely to use Snapchat or Instagram.
Still, barring a PR disaster arising from this app, Facebook has everything to gain and nothing to lose here. Messenger Kids could hook kids on Facebook at a young age, and increase the number of parents befriending each other for the sake of their children. All of which helps Facebook grow.
Are you a parent of a child under 13? Will you be downloading Messenger Kids for them? Or would you rather they stay away from social media sites until they’re a little older? Do you have any concerns about Messenger Kids? Please let us know in the comments below!