Facebook announced on Monday that it will introduce a new kid-friendly version of its messaging app.
Messenger Kids functions like Facebook’s normal messaging app with a few caveats: children using the app can only send age appropriate GIFs, their version has no ads or in-app purchases available and the account must be set up by a parent. From there, parents will be able to add and remove contacts to a child's account.
No ads means that Facebook will collect “little data” since it won’t be doing targeted advertising towards kids on Messenger Kids.
The data it will collect is “to do things like display the previous messages in a conversation, to put most frequent contacts at the top of the contact list.”
Facebook has also built special detection tools to detect abusive content on the platform.
Also, unlike the regular version of Facebook, children under 13 on the app won’t have Facebook accounts associated with their app. Facebook’s current policy doesn’t let individuals under 13 create accounts.
Facebook notes that once users turn 13, they won’t automatically be migrated to the full-scale messenger, nor will a Facebook account automatically be created for them.
The firm’s development of a kid-friendly messaging app comes in response to the wide volume of kids who already use tablets and smartphones. More than 90 percent of children 6 to 12 have access to tablets or smartphones, and 66 percent of that same age group have either their own tablet or smartphone, according to numbers provided by Dubit, a consulting agency.
Facebook’s child-friendly venture comes as other tech companies like YouTube struggle with kid content on their platform. The Google-owned video site recently pledged to crack down on exploitative videos of children that have proliferated on its platform.
Facebook says the Messenger Kids project was developed while working closely with child development experts with consideration for questions like “is there a ‘right age’ to introduce kids to the digital world? Is technology good for kids, or is it having adverse effects on their social skills and health?” and “do we know the long-term effects of screen time?”
“But in all of our research, there was one theme that was consistent: parents want to know they're in control. They want a level of control over their kids' digital world that is similar to the level they have in the real world,” says Facebook’s public policy director Antigone Davis.
“And just as they want to say ‘lights out’ at night, they also want to be able to say ‘phones off.’ ”