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

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

Parents can use their main Facebook app to control kids accounts and contacts through the Messenger Kids Controls panel.

Facebook is targeted kids as young as 6 with a new messaging app introduced on Monday - which some critics worry will be a slippery slope for Mark Zuckerberg's two-billion strong operation.

Messenger for Kids launched Monday and is now only available through the Apple App Store, with Amazon and Google Play appearing "in the coming months", the Facebook press release said. Despite US federal law prohibiting companies from collecting personal information on those under 13 years old without parental consent, millions are already on Facebook, with or without their parents' permission, says Stephen Balkam, chief executive of the nonprofit Family Online Safety Institute.

A Facebook spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo, "We've built automated systems that can detect things like nudity, violence, and child exploitative imagery to help limit that content from being shared on Messenger Kids". The app allows them to do text conversations or make video calls to any person or group.

Underage users will not be automatically moved to the regular Messenger or Facebook accounts when they become old enough, the company said.




Loren Cheng, a product management director at Facebook, said: "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". If two children want to be friends with each other, each will have to get parental approval for contact.

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. It will be soon available for Android and Amazon Kindle devices.

"[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. That's a departure from Facebook's approach in the past, as when it required users to download the separate Messenger app in 2014 in order to send direct messages on Facebook.

Create an account: Finish the setup process by creating an account for your child, where all you'll need to do is provide their name. In order to befriend another child in Messenger Kids, a parent must also be friends with that child's parent on Facebook.

He said Facebook is trying to deal with the situation pragmatically by steering young Facebook users to a service designed for them. That is still restricted to children age 13 and up.


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