Facebook is launching a new version of its chat app targeting children under 13 with strict parental controls including contact approvals. The free app, called Messenger Kids, hopes to attract parents looking for a safe online chat service, with a greater level of parental control, child-friendly features, screened content and safety filters to prevent children sharing inappropriate content.
Messenger Kids is a standalone app installed on the child’s tablet or smartphone, but controlled from a parent’s Facebook account. The child does not have a Facebook account, which is prohibited for those under 13; instead the app operates as an extension of the parent’s account. Only parents have the ability to add friends or delete messages.
Children can start one-on-one or group video or text chats with approved contacts, sending videos, photos, gifs and other creative elements from a library of screened drawing tools, frames, gifs, masks and stickers. Messages sent to adults or those over 13 appear in their normal Facebook Messenger app. Parents control contacts and other options through their Facebook app on their smartphone.
The app, which is rolling out as a preview to iOS with Android coming later, is only available in the US for the timebeing. Facebook said it was fully compliant with the US Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act, and that it had worked with online safety experts including the National PTA and Blue Star Families.