Messenger Kids offers an opportunity to introduce children to the wider Facebook ecosystem, fending off advances from rivals targeting children and teenagers, while locking parents and family into the social network to communicate with their children.
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. It will be soon available for Android and Amazon Kindle devices. To get there, click on "More" on the bottom right corner in your main Facebook app, and click "Messenger Kids" in the Explore section.
Facebook said it will collect some data, including a child's name, the content of their messages and data about how the app is being used - even if it is not as extensive as the information it asks from adults.
Facebook is launching a messaging app for children so they can communicate with their parents and parent-approved friends.
"[Messenger Kids] doesn't overcome the issues of screen time and screen use and all the other issues that go with technology and kids", Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, told The Post. From there, parents will be able to add and remove contacts to a child's account.
To target kids, you need to target the parents - and that's what Facebook is doing now with Messenger.
The video chat places a big emphasis on interactive face filters that use frames, masks, stickers and emojis, as well as various sound effects.
Once parents download the app to their child's iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone, they will authenticate it with their Facebook account.
Facebook rolled out a preview Monday of Messenger Kids, a new app designed specifically for kids, allowing them to video chat and send message to friends and family.
Now the app is only available for iOS, although Android support is expected.
Dr. Lewis Bernstein, former executive vice president of Education, Research and Outreach for the Sesame Workshop, compares the development of Messenger Kids over the last 18 months to those early years of developing "Sesame Street", the long-running, iconic show that now airs on HBO and re-airs on PBS.
Kristelle Lavallee, a children's psychology expert who advised Facebook on designing the service, called it a "useful tool" but also noted, "The risk of exposure to things they were not developmentally prepared for is huge".
Parents are in full control of who their child interacts with on Messenger Kids. The company, in its post, said the kids can have access to social media with parental control. Messenger Kids presents another way to tap into a subset of the younger demographic. But it's also a potentially smart move for Facebook, one that could get kids comfortable with the platform by the time they're old enough for a regular account.
But kids can't sign up on their own.