Facebook unveils parent-controlled messenger app just for kids

The tech giant published a press release explaining exactly what the new app can be used for: "We're rolling out a preview of Messenger Kids, a new app that makes it easier for kids to safely video chat and [text] message with family and friends when they can't be together in person".

Messenger Kids is being trialled in the United States as a standalone app for a smartphone or tablet that is controlled from a parent's Facebook account and does not create a main Facebook profile for young users.

Whether you're a fan of Facebook or not, Messenger Kids is a compelling option if you want ensure your children's safety on social media.

Children aren't searchable on Facebook which means children will have to first find their friend's parents on Facebook to get permission.

There are no ads or in-app purchases in Messenger Kids, and Facebook said the app is compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), which requires a company targeting users under 13 to adhere to certain requirements, such as gaining parental consent before it collects users' personal information.

The app is now available only on Apple App Store and will subsequently be released on Amazon App Store and Google Play Store in the coming months. Parents fully control the contact list and kids can't connect with contacts that their parent does not approve. The spokesperson said that Facebook will continue to update the enforcement of its policies depending on the types of content that Messenger Kids users report. Adult users and relatives can receive messages through the regular Messenger app. Masks, emojis, gifs, stickers, and sound effects, are available too - just like on the grownup version of Messenger - only sanitised, and carefully preselected by a panel of experts.

The decision to launch an app for children under 13 - the minimum age required to have a Facebook account - has been criticised in some quarters, but children's charity the NSPCC said it was a "step in the right direction" for providing children with safe places to contact friends and family.

The app may be built for kids to use, but parents are the ones in the driver's seat. Parents will need to log into the app with their Facebook credentials and will be prompted to create a profile for the child.

Kids under 13 can't be on Facebook or Messenger under the company's rules- but many already are.

"It allows kids to do what they like to do best". Children can start one-on-one contacts with parent-approved contacts.

  • Kara Saunders