How young is too young to be on social media?
Strictly speaking, only those aged 13 and over are allowed to use Facebook. But the prevention methods are trivial, meaning more than 20 million under-13-year-olds are thought to be using the network.
So on Monday, Facebook launched its first app tailored for young users. It’s a ringfenced network that needs parental approval before use, and will not – the company has promised – be used to feed data for advertising.
Messenger Kids is a simplified, locked-down version of the messaging app Facebook today offers those over 13.
“Parents are increasingly allowing their children to use tablets and smartphones, but often have questions and concerns about how their kids use them and which apps are appropriate,” said Loren Cheng, product manager for Messenger Kids.
“So when we heard about the need for better apps directly from parents during research and conversations with parents, we knew we needed to develop it alongside the people who were going to use it, as well as experts who could help guide our thinking.”
If two children want to be friends on Messenger Kids, that friendship has to be approved by a parent for each child. Once confirmed to be safe, friends can do live video chat and send pictures and text to each other.
There will also be “a library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools lets them decorate content and express their personalities”.
Approved adults can also contact children through the app – although they will get their messages through the normal Facebook Messenger app.
Messenger Kids will of course collect data: the child’s name, the content of the messages, and typical usage reports for how the app is used.
Facebook will share that information with third parties, which must have data protection policies that comply with Coppa, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act in the US.
– Dave Lee
Read more: Facebook: Now For Young Children Too