How to Sign Your Child Up for Facebook's New 'Messenger Kids'

Posted December 05, 2017

The free app, called Messenger Kids, hopes to attract parents looking for a safe online chat service, with a greater level of parental control, child-friendly features, screened content and safety filters to prevent children sharing inappropriate content.

When kids chat with contacts that use the regular version of Facebook Messenger, like parents or relatives, their exchanges will appear as a normal message thread in the Messenger app for the recipient. Finally, users of Messenger Kids can't delete any messages they've sent or received inside the app - another safeguard, in case parents want to check what their children have been up to.

"One of the things we found over and over again is that kids look at communications as play, and so we wanted to make this as playful as possible", said Loren Cheng, Facebook's director of product management. Messenger Kids is designed as a legal way for kids to participate.

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Your child will only be able to chat with friends and family members you approve of, via text or video, as well as send photos, choosing from a rich library of age-appropriate and "specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools" that let them "decorate content and express their personalities". The social networking giant also made it clear that Messenger Kids accounts would not transition into a usual Facebook account when a child turns 13.

"I think it's very important that parents know who their kids are talking to".

Parents can remove contacts from the app, and children can't reinstate them. The company says the application is compatible with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act.

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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. The app is launching for iPhone immediately, but will eventually come to Android and Amazon Fire devices. In order to befriend another child in Messenger Kids, a parent must also be friends with that child's parent on Facebook.

Messenger Kids offers an opportunity to introduce children to the wider Facebook ecosystem, fending off advances from rivals targeting children and teenagers, while locking parents and family into the social network to communicate with their children.

The Messenger Kids app on an iPad. "A child does not have the cognitive maturity or impulse control to properly manage their time and use on digital platforms", Hempe said.

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It's worth noting here that Facebook itself remains closed to those under 13 years of age.