Facebook trials a 'safe' messenger app for young children

'Messenger Kids' is designed to allow children to safely stay in touch with family.

The Essentials

Facebook revealed on Monday it's rolling out a preview of "Messenger Kids," an app allowing children to "safely video chat and message with family and friends."

– CNN reports that the standalone app is targeting children aged 6 to 12.

– Parents have control over the account and must approve of their child's contacts. Kids are also not searchable within the app.

The Big Picture

The announcement may set off immediate alarm bells in parents wary of allowing their children access to social media at a young age.

Facebook doesn't even let kids have accounts until they're 13, so what's their thinking here?

Well, the social media giant says it came up with "Messenger Kids" after talking with "thousands of parents, associations like National PTA, and parenting experts in the US."

It says "we found that there’s a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want."

The result is Messenger Kids, which Facebook says will provide a safe way for children to stay in touch with family and friends they can't see face-to-face.

It will allow children to set up one-on-one or group video chats and send photos, videos, child-friendly gifs or text messages to their contacts.

Kids will receive these messages in the Messenger Kids app, while adult contacts (ie. relatives) will get them through the regular Messenger app.

To ensure its safety, Facebook says accounts must be created by parents, who will have control over who their child can contact. Kids can't contact anyone their parents do not approve.

Facebook also says the app won't feature ads and children's data won't be used to sell ads.

While social media sites like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram have age limits of 13 years old, the Telegraph reports that many younger children lie about their age to set up an account.

A study for Safer Internet Day found that 75 percent of 10 to 12 year olds were members of at least one social network.

Facebook says its new app is in response to an age where "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."

Right now the app is only available in the Apple app store, though will be rolled out to Google and Amazon app stores in the future.

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