Facebook has launched a new version of Facebook Messenger, aimed at children under the age of 13.
The app, called Facebook Messenger Kids, works much like a trimmed-down version of the mainstream version of the app. The biggest difference is that it’s designed with parental controls in mind.
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Accounts have to be set up by parents, and kids can only talk to a pre-defined list of contacts. These can be relatives, who can use the ordinary Facebook Messenger app, or carefully-chosen friends. The home screen shows a list of who they can talk to, and who is online to chat.
Facebook’s augmented reality technology adds a touch of finesse to Facebook Messenger Kids, and users have access to a swathe of age-appropriate stickers and masks. It includes a number of GIFs too, but these have been curated.
In addition, kids can send text messages and photos.
In many respects, Facebook Messenger Kids is a wise step when it comes to safeguarding. Kids already flout Facebook’s long-established age limit. Anecdotes aren’t data, but I’ve got a lot of friends with children under that age point, and many have created their own illicit social networking profiles.
Facebook Messenger Kids offers an alternative that shares the features of the mainstream chat app, but is ring-fenced and gives parents the ability to impose some sort of limits. Parents will also appreciate that the entire experience is ad-free, and their children’s data won’t be used to target advertisements.
It also lacks in-app purchases, so there’s no chance of your child using your credit card to buy credits for Messenger games,
However, no doubt some will question if, say, six is too young to use even a santized version of Facebook Messenger. It will also raise some serious questions about screen-time, and whether it’s fair that Facebook is effectively grooming young kids to use the full-blown service when they reach of age.
Facebook Kids is available from today on iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch (although it might not be available in every area). To get started, download the app onto your child’s iDevice from the Apple App Store, authenticate using your own account, and take it from there.