Facebook is targeted kids as young as 6 with a new messaging app introduced on Monday - which some critics worry will be a slippery slope for Mark Zuckerberg's two-billion strong operation.
As Engadget explains, kids won't even be able to add friends. According to Facebook, 93% of 6- to 12-year-old children in the US have access to smartphones and tablets, with about 80% of children in that same age range getting their first taste of social media, too. Kids don't get a separate Facebook or Messenger account; rather, it's an extension of a parent's account. The company stated that they have consulted hundreds of parent and children advocates, such as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, before coming up with Messenger Kids.
The app itself is visually oriented, as children tend to prefer real-time video chats, Facebook told Engadget.
Facebook says it won't automatically move users to the regular Messenger or to Facebook when they get old enough.
When it comes to ads, Facebook said it will also not use data from Messenger Kids for Facebook ads. This, combined with the fact that parents have to approve each of their children's contacts, should prevent phony accounts from appearing on the platform, a practice that's become a huge problem for Facebook. Parents need to authenticate it to their own account before setting up the kids account.
Facebook is launching a new version of its chat app targeting children under 13 with strict parental controls including contact approvals.
The company spent months talking to parenting groups, child behavioral experts and safety organizations to develop the app, which should be compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act.
The app, which is rolling out as a preview to iOS with Android coming later, is only available in the USA for the timebeing.
She said, "For a child who is just now starting out in social media to have certain restrictions and parental guidance, that is important".
Messenger Kids will also allow kids to send GIFs and stickers like the full-fledged Messenger, but will have them choose from a curated selection of age-appropriate materials. The app, which does not require a phone number for making an account, rules out the possibility of anyone outside the contact list from connecting with the kid.
But most importantly, Facebook is giving parents total control over how their children use the app and with whom they can communicate. Once this is done, the kids are ready to use the app.
Major tech firms have recently released more products that allow children to engage within the limits of the privacy law - and that reach more of the country's approximately 50 million children under the age of 13 in the process.