Facebook targets 6- to 12-year-old demographic with new Messenger app

Starting young

Facebook said it was fully compliant with the US Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act, and that it had worked with online safety experts including the National PTA and Blue Star Families. The app is launching for iPhone immediately, but will eventually come to Android and Amazon Fire devices.

But instead of forbidding your kids from using ubiquitous social networking services like Facebook or Facebook Messenger, you could try setting up a limited account for them.

The social network giant said children between the ages of 6 and 11 are most likely to gravitate toward the standalone app, raising concerns about its safety in the hands of such youngsters.

The parent-controlled app allows Mom and Dad to decide who their child can have on their contact list.Once a contact like a child's best friend or an aunt or cousin is added, they can chat freely with that person using the service.

Right now, you can only do that in a feature-crippled Messenger Kids app available as a preview on United States iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches, but a Google Play and Amazon App Store expansion will definitely happen "in the coming months", and the general concept might be something worth exploring for the larger Facebook platform as well.

There already are a handful of other apps that children can use with parental consent, and kids can communicate with each other using texting on cellpones.

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Messenger Kids is designed for kids and helps them in connecting with family and close friends. Kids will have to give only their first and last name to register, and whatever data Facebook collects would be kept separate from Facebook's other data.

"Whether it's using video chat to talk to grandparents, staying in touch with cousins who live far away, or sending mom a decorated photo while she's working late to say hi, Messenger Kids opens up a new world of online communication to families", wrote Loren Cheng, Facebook's product management director in a blog post.

According to Head of Messenger David Marcus, offering Messenger Kids is another way to give parents more control over what their children read, see and hear on smartphones and tablets, which have become commonplace inside and outside the home.

Parents are in full control of who their child interacts with on Messenger Kids.

As of today, Messenger Kids is only launching on the iOS App Store. The social network also is looking at building controls around how much time a child can spend on the app. But first, kids must get a parental approval. 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. Messenger Kids presents another way to tap into a subset of the younger demographic. Facebook won't migrate kids over to its "adult" apps when children reach that age, but it's easy to see that happening on its own.

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