Once a parent adds someone to their child's contact list through the main Facebook app, kids can video chat as well as send photos, videos, and texts, or pick something from "a library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks, and drawing tools", according to Facebook's announcement post.
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. It's launching Monday in the US, initially on Apple devices.
With more than 2 billion monthly users, Facebook can't exactly guarantee that it's going to be a safe place for kids.
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". 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. The account will be in Messenger Kids app and will automatically migrate to original Messenger account when they turn 13.
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Messenger Kids is full of engaging and interactive features for kids to connect with the people they love. Children can't add contacts without their parents' approval first, and should one of those contacts become troublesome, parents can block them directly. Android users will also get a version of the Messenger Kids at some point in the future.
But most importantly, Facebook is giving parents total control over how their children use the app and with whom they can communicate.
Facebook's child-friendly venture comes as other tech companies like YouTube struggle with kid content on their platform. 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.
There's a simple reason Facebook is starting to focus on children: Kids are already using technology anyway. Kids also are not allowed to delete conversations so adults can monitor their children's devices. The social network also is looking at building controls around how much time a child can spend on the app.