Facebook rolls out messenger app for kids under 13

FILE PHOTO: A picture illustration shows a Facebook logo reflected in a person's eye, in Zenica
FILE PHOTO: A picture illustration shows a Facebook logo reflected in a person's eye, in Zenica, March 13, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

December 4, 2017

By Daniel Trotta

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc <FB.O> on Monday rolled out Messenger Kids, an app that lets the world’s biggest social media company expand into a so-far untapped market of kids under 13 while also giving parents complete control over what their children see.

Facebook normally requires users to be at least 13 years old. The new app gives it a chance to win brand loyalty from younger children at a time when it faces competition for teenagers from other social media platforms such as Snapchat.

There already are a handful of other apps that children can use with parental consent, and kids can communicate with each other using texting on cellpones.

Facebook said research showed young children were already using technology on a regular basis – but on apps built for teens and adults, raising concern among parents that their children might be communicating with strangers.

At the same time, parents were willing to let their children aged 6 to 12 use social media as long as there was strict parental control. Facebook Messenger Kids requires parents to set up an account and approve their children’s contacts.

“There’s really a gap in the market for a messaging app for kids that also gives parents control,” Facebook spokeswoman Lauren Svensson said. “We’re going to see how kids are using it, and that will allow us to add updates in future versions as necessary.”

The stand-alone app on children’s devices can be controlled by a parent’s Facebook account that will allow kids to use video chat and send photos, videos or text messages to friends approved by their parents.

Monday’s unveiling was billed as a preview because so far it is only available in the United States and only on iOS, or Apple operating systems. The app was 18 months in development, Svensson said.

Facebook said it consulted with 1,200 parents plus online security and child development specialists, including the National Parent-Teacher Association, the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Connect Safely, Center on Media and Child Health, and Sesame Workshop.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

  • 101st Screaming Eagle

    Its that predator place that gets all these young kids to run away from home…

  • All American

    What kind of parent would encourage this? None that I know. I don’t know anyone that supports Spacebook⬇️

  • Varangian Guard

    Social media is evil. It also is filled with d-bags that will have that hacked and be trolling the children in the first week.

  • Phil M. Kelley

    Pedophiles are already figuring out how too get on this app.

  • tophat1984

    Because Facebook is involved, this is sure to involve lots of ‘livestreamed’ rape, murder, and suicide 🙁

  • Roscoe

    What is Facebook?

    • All American

      Never heard of it???

      • Roscoe

        It is a place that criminals scan looking for victims.

        • All American

          Sad

          • Roscoe

            Pedophiles live on Facebook looking for pictures of children.

  • tonysprout

    So kids have to submit their driver license to prove their age?

    • Coyote7✓

      Don’t fall for it.

  • Roger Belcher

    Bad idea. Parents are irresponsible, and kids need to be unplugged from screen obsession.