Facebook today announced a new version of its Messenger chat app designed for children ages six to 12. Called Messenger Kids, the new app does not require a Facebook account — due to federal law, users under the age of 13 cannot legally sign up for Facebook. Rather, parents are able to manage a child’s Messenger Kids app from their Facebook account, controlling which friends and family members the child is able to contact. Facebook is launching the app today in preview with a limited rollout on iOS.
Messenger Kids is primarily designed to offer video and text chat along with the types of playful masks and filters, originally popularized by Snapchat, that are now prevalent across Facebook’s many messaging products. Facebook says there is a “library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools lets them decorate content and express their personalities.” The app also gives parents the ability to control a child’s contact list, while a more spartan home screen shows pre-approved friends that are online and preexisting one-on-one chats and group threads
To use the app, parents must download it from the App Store and then authenticate it with their Facebook user name and password. Only then can an account be created for a child, with the process requiring only a name for the profile. Contacts are added through an “Explore” section of the app that should let parents search and find other contacts. 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.
Employees of the company, and those who created this product, may have good intentions, and it’s clear Facebook is following the legal protocols to prevent abuse. But it’s still worth pointing out that Facebook is going after the next generation of users by targeting children. It’s not far-fetched to assume that child users of Messenger Kids will be more likely to want a Facebook account, and that Facebook will make it easier in the future to migrate a child’s Messenger Kids account over to the main app.
What do you think? Is it worth installing? Let alone is it worth getting your 7 year old a smartphone?