Start ‘em Young: Facebook Introduced a Messenger Kids App

Parents must set up kids' accounts, and they have full control over their contact lists

The preview version of Messenger Kids is available to iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone users in the U.S. Facebook
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Facebook Monday introduced a version of its iconic Messenger application for kids, but parents must set up kids’ accounts on Messenger Kids.

Product management director Loren Cheng introduced Messenger Kids in a Newsroom post, saying that the preview version of the app is available to iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone users in the U.S., with versions for Android and the Amazon Kindle to follow “in the coming months.”

Messenger Kids is ad-free, and information on children using the app will not be used for ads. Cheng said Messenger Kids was designed to be compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act.

Cheng outlined the four steps parents must take to set up Messenger Kids accounts for their kids:

  1. Download: First, download the Messenger Kids app on your child’s iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone from the iTunes App Store.
  2. Authenticate: Then, authenticate your child’s device using your own Facebook username and password. This will not create a Facebook account for your child or give them access to your Facebook account.
  3. 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. Then the device can be handed over to the child so they can start chatting with the family and friends you approve.
  4. Add contacts: To add people to your child’s approved contact list, go to the Messenger Kids parental controls panel in your main Facebook app. To get there, click on “More” on the bottom-right corner in your main Facebook app, and click “Messenger Kids” in the Explore section.

Once kids are up and running on Messenger Kids, they can enjoy many of the features available via the flagship Messenger app, including:

  • Starting one-on-one or group video chats with contacts that have been approved by their parents. The app’s home screen displays approved contacts and whether those people are online.

  • Masks, emojis and sound effects.

  • Kids can send photos, videos and text messages to contacts approved by their parents, and adults will receive that content via their regular Messenger apps.
  • A library of GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools that are appropriate for kids.

  • Full control for parents over their kids’ contact lists via the Messenger Kids Controls panel in their main Facebook apps.

Kurt Wagner of Recode reported that Messenger Kids was developed by Facebook’s Youth Team, made up of some 100 employees at the social network who, as the name suggests, are tasked with developing products and features for kids and teens.

Wagner reported that the Youth Team also developed the polls feature Facebook introduced last month, adding that the team behind positive teen-focused social app tbh, which Facebook acquired in October, is now part of the Youth Team.

Product director Luc Levesque, former vice president of growth at TripAdvisor, leads the Youth Team, Wagner reported.

Cheng wrote in Monday’s Newsroom post: “After talking to thousands of parents, associations like the National Parent Teacher Association [he noted that the National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service] and parenting experts in the U.S., we found that there’s a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want. In addition to our research with thousands of parents, we’ve engaged with more than one-dozen expert advisors in the areas of child development, online safety and children’s media and technology who’ve helped inform our approach to building our first app for kids. We’ve also had thought-provoking conversations around topics of responsible online communication, parental controls and much more with organizations like the National PTA and Blue Star Families, where we heard firsthand how parents and caregivers approach raising children in today’s digitally connected world.” David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.