Stepping into sensitive territory, Facebook on Monday unveiled a new version of Messenger for children.
Until now, Facebook has prohibited consumers under the age of 13 from using its most popular services, from its flagship app to Instagram. By contrast, Messenger Kids takes direct aim at pre-teen consumers.
Facebook says it didn’t make the decision lightly. While developing Messenger Kids, the social giant consulted with thousands of parents and over a dozen expert advisors in the areas of child development, online safety and children’s media and technology, according to Loren Cheng, product management director at Facebook.
‘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,” Cheng notes in a new blog post.
Describing Messenger Kids, Cheng said the standalone app will live on children’s own digital devices, but it can be controlled from their parent’s Facebook account.
Once accounts are set up by a parent, kids can start one-on-one or group video chats with parent-approved contacts. The home screen shows young users those contacts that they are approved to talk to, and when those contacts are online.
To encourage use, the service comes complete with virtual masks, emojis and sound effects.
In addition to video chats, users can send photos, videos or text messages to their contacts.
At least for now, Facebook says it doesn’t plan on running ads in Messenger Kids. It promises that children’s information will not be used for the purposes of targeting ads.
As of Monday, the app was only being made available to U.S. users of Apple’s App Store, but it is expected to hit Amazon’s App Store and the Google Play Store in the coming months.
No doubt, the arrivals of Messenger Kids is bad news for rival messaging services. That goes for Snap especially, as the company continues&nb sp;to miss revenue- and user-growth estimates.