Facebook app for kids raises questions

Facebook app for kids raises questions

Facebook on Monday announced it would be rolling out a preview of Messenger Kids in the United States, a new parent-controlled app to make it easier for kids to video chat and message with loved ones.

Davis named some reasons Facebook made a decision to create Messenger Kids and why they chose to create it right now.

Facebook recently announced that it will roll out a standalone messaging platform for children called "Messenger Kids", for users ages six to 12 to safely chat with family and friends. They also can not delete messages.

EN_Interview_1-20171206-WIE10The Facebook messenger app for children provides strict parental controls.

"None of the messages disappear or can be deleted, so parents can look at their kid's device at any time to see their messages (this was a strong point of feedback we heard from parents)", a Facebook spokesperson told ConsumerAffairs.

"The risk of exposure to things they were not developmentally prepared for is huge", she said.

She cited research that shows some 93 percent of US kids ages six to 12 have access to tablets or smartphones - and 66 percent have their own device, often using apps meant for teens and adults. Face filters and playful masks can be distracting for adults, Lavallee said, but for kids who are just learning how to form relationships and stay in touch with parents digitally, they are ways to express themselves. It's a hard decision as to when your children are old enough to be given a certain amount of Internet freedom and many parents are likely to prefer to do this in a controlled manner compared to the alternative of free rein on the adult Internet.

Currently, Facebook and its attendant Messenger app are only open to registrations from people aged 13 and over.

As with other tools Facebook has released in the past, intentions and real-world use do not always match up.

It's important to note that kids under 13 are still not allowed to sign up for a Facebook account. With their parents' permission, however, they can chat with approved Messenger and Messenger Kids users from a parent's account.

There is a great deal of pressure on Canadian preteens to use social media and many of them do. Even so, Balkam said millions of kids under 13 are already on Facebook, with or without their parents' approval.

A way to 'get them while they're young?'

Despite its heavy focus on safety and privacy, the app is likely to draw criticism - especially in the wake of safety flaws recently discovered in other apps geared toward young children.

Messenger Kids is launching Monday in the US on Apple devices - the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

Yahoo News reported that Facebook's new messenger app "will not show kids any advertisements or offer in-app purchases". Versions for Android and Amazon's tablets are coming later.

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