Facebook’s New Messaging App Hopes to Reach Kids as Young as 6

Data Privacy

Facebook’s New Messaging App Hopes to Reach Kids as Young as 6

Dec 4, 2017

Teens might be migrating to new social media platforms these days, but Facebook thinks it can reach an even younger demographic—kids as young as six—with a new app called Messenger Kids. Announced today, the app connects trusted adults with children younger than 13, the minimum age a user can join Facebook’s flagship platform.

Adults can sign up using only a child’s first and last names, giving kids access to a text and video messaging platform that works on tablets and smartphones. Kids can only message other Facebook users approved by the adult. There are also plenty of gifs, masks and emojis kids can pepper into conversations.

In a blog announcing the app, Facebook says the tool complies with COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, and was created after careful research with parents and groups including the National PTA to create a safe way for kids to talk to adults using the devices that kids are already using. Facebook also cites an external study from Dubit, which found 93 percent of 6-12 year olds in the US have access to tablets or smartphones, with many of them owning a device of their own.

The service is ad-free but Facebook notes it still collects data about users and their communications in its privacy policy. Data may also be shared with third-party vendors who “must adhere to strict data confidentiality and security obligations,” according to the policy.

Facebook is still the biggest social-media network across much of the world, with about two billion users, but it’s user base is ageing as platforms like Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) and Snapchat have beensteadily luring teensaway for a few years now. According to one USA Today report, “It's a grown-up problem for Facebook which needs young users to develop the habit of checking Facebook so it can show them ads well into adulthood.” Messenger Kids might be Facebook’s way of reversing that trend by capturing users even earlier.

Currently the app is only available for iOS, although Android support is expected.

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