Hands On With Facebook Messenger Kids

Leslie Hanson
December 6, 2017

Facebook is rolling out a kids version of Facebook Messenger to mixed reaction.

For better or worse, Facebook's primary reasoning simply leans into the trend: kids are already regularly using social media apps.

Indeed, the app can only be downloaded through a parent's Facebook account and it is created to give parents a great deal of control over how children use it. Parents completely control the contact list so children cannot add anyone not approved by them.

Controversy has swirled around Facebook's new messaging app for children now available in the USA and likely coming soon to Canada and other countries. When children turn 13, they won't instantly have their Messenger Kids profiles turned into real Facebook profiles, nor will they get kicked off Messenger Kids.

There will also be no display adverts or data collected on users to target them in advertising campaigns unlike the present Facebook set up. The idea behind Messenger Kids comes from a good place.

Face filters and playful masks can be distracting for adults, Lavallee said, but for kids who are just learning how to form relationships and stay in touch with parents digitally, they are ways to express themselves.

"None of the messages disappear or can be deleted, so parents can look at their kid's device at any time to see their messages (this was a strong point of feedback we heard from parents)", a Facebook spokesperson told ConsumerAffairs.

For the first time, Facebook is opening up to children under age 13 with a privacy-focused app created to neutralize child predator threats that plague youth-focused competitors like Snapchat.

Facebook's live video streaming feature, for example, has been used for plenty of innocuous and useful things, but also to stream crimes and suicides.

"Adam Alter writes about this in Irresistible, and one of the first points he makes is numerous Silicon Valley giants - like Steve Jobs - allegedly didn't let their kids use the technologies they were inventing".

Stephen Balkam, CEO of the nonprofit Family Online Safety Institute, said 'that train has left the station'.

This is why Facebook and many other social media companies prohibit younger kids from joining.

"Many of us at Facebook are parents ourselves, and it seems we weren't alone when we realized that our kids were getting online earlier and earlier", the spokesperson said.

Yahoo News reported that Facebook's new messenger app "will not show kids any advertisements or offer in-app purchases".

Despite its heavy focus on safety and privacy, the app is likely to draw criticism - especially in the wake of safety flaws recently discovered in other apps geared toward young children.

Versions for Android and Amazon's tablets are coming later.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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