Loren Cheng, a product manager at Facebook who led the Messenger Kids project, said that the company actually has a dedicated team at Facebook who looks at all the reports, and will proactively ban any account that is seen as harmful. For years, major tech firms such as Facebook complied with COPPA by not allowing those under 13 to have accounts. Facebook's app is designed for users under the age of 13.
This experience is tailored to devices that are given to kids, not the smartphones or tablets that parents use, which may already have a Messenger app installed.
"Many of us at Facebook are parents, and naturally we're thinking about technology's role in the lives of children and families", Antigone Davis, Facebook's Public Policy Director and Global Head of Safety, wrote in an article in Facebook's Newsroom addressing the new Messenger app. Then the device can be handed over to the child so they can start chatting with the family and friends you approve. As is the case with the regular Facebook app, the camera in Messenger Kids is loaded with stickers and effects - all of which have been made specifically for the child-friendly app and aren't available in Facebook's other services.
Perhaps most importantly, Facebook is launching Messenger Kids free of ads. To get there, click on "More" on the bottom right corner in your main Facebook app, and click "Messenger Kids" in the Explore section.
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.
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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.
Messenger Kids is designed for kids and helps them in connecting with family and close friends.
"I think it's very important that parents know who their kids are talking to". "We appreciate that for now, the product is ad-free and appears created to put parents in control". And the only way they can do that is through Facebook. These controls are accessible through the main Facebook app.
Children who feel they are being bullied can report content or contacts. "They need to be outside, interacting with their friends (and family) in person and learning how to have real conversation and social skills", Hempe said.
The application is available for preview in the United States and will roll out to iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch initially. Facebook also said it will not automatically move users to the regular Messenger or Facebook when they get old enough, though the company may provide them the option to move contacts to Messenger down the line.