Facebook's age restriction meant that it was never a place for kids. 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.
"Children today are online earlier and earlier", she said in a statement.
Messenger Kids was designed after consultation with hundreds of parents and several children's advocates, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the social network said.
In return, Facebook obviously can get more users sooner or later. Parental permission is required to sign up for the app, she said. "Two is that they want to know that the content their child is being exposed to is appropriate, and three they want to have better control over the time and way in which their child spends time with these technologies". "Video calls become so much more playful with AR", says Marcus.
Facebook has a minimum age requirement of 13, enforced by the American Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, however tech-savvy pre-teens have already shown this to be easily bypassed. The law requires companies targeting children under 13 to take extra steps to safeguard privacy and security - particularly around advertising, as children may not understand what is and is not an ad. Though at present, Facebook has no interest in converting the Messenger Kids account into a Facebook account when they turn 13. But with technology moving deeper into the home and many firms looking for more growth, children have become a more attractive market. That said, it should be a great medium to connect with their family or friends.
Instead, children can make - and only with parental approval - a Messenger Kids account. The FTC did not respond to a request for comment.
"This is by far the most clumsy part of Messenger Kids", TechCrunch reported.
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She cited research that shows some 93 percent of USA kids ages six to 12 have access to tablets or smartphones - and 66 percent have their own device, often using apps meant for teens and adults. Right now Messenger Kids is designed for sending messages and video chatting, but Facebook hasn't ruled out the possibility of adding new features as it learns more about how people use the app. Facebook also said it won't automatically move users to the regular Messenger or Facebook when they get old enough, though the company might give them the option to move contacts to Messenger down the line.
Reuters/Regis DuvignauFacebook's Messenger Kids allows for parent-controlled Messenger accounts for children.
Facebook's focus on younger children raised some alarm bells, however.
But, he said it remains to be seen whether the app will continue to stay ad-free.
The company said it spent months talking to parenting groups, child behavioral experts and safety organizations to aid in developing the app, and spent thousands of hours interviewing families across the country, probing the ways they now communicate with one another. "We don't create a profile for them on Facebook or anywhere else", said a spokesperson.
The Center for Digital Democracy praised Facebook for creating a "walled garden" approach to the new messenger service. "I think we're at an interesting moment, and there are a lot of moves into that marketplace". The app is launching for iPhone immediately, but will eventually come to Android and Amazon Fire devices. This is why Facebook and many other social media companies prohibit younger kids from joining. Of those parents, 81% said their kids between the ages of 8 and 13 already used social media.
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