Facebook Created A Product For Kids As Young As 6

On Monday morning, Facebook unveiled Messenger Kids, a brand-new standalone messaging app on iOS inside the US which’s meant for kids as young as 6 years old.

The app’s design can be elegant in addition to also its privacy features appear thoughtful — kids can only chat with contacts approved by parents — yet Facebook has repeatedly proven itself incapable of anticipating the worst of human nature. The company’s move to attract children as users can be likely to generate a Great deal of scrutiny.

As Messenger Kids debuts, more than a few parents might ask themselves whether they genuinely want their first-graders to use a product created by a company whose core experience has already been gamed by trolls, liars, in addition to also a Russian state-sponsored operation meant to sow chaos in US politics in addition to also society. the item’s also fair to ask whether Messenger Kids can be simply another Facebook product intended to grow its user base, in addition to also if kids so young (six!) should genuinely be using messaging apps at all.

At a smaller press briefing in San Francisco last week, Facebook did its best to provide answers to these questions. A product manager detailed the app’s safety precautions: Parents entirely control account creation in addition to also contact management in Messenger Kids, he said. in addition to also parents can only add contacts for their kids if they themselves are friends with those contacts’ parents on Facebook. Parents manage their kid’s app inside their own Facebook apps. Messenger Kids also has specialized reporting which allows kids to report friends who are being mean, in addition to also the item notifies parents when these reports are filed. There are also human moderators in addition to also filtering software which scan for inappropriate content, such as nude images, in addition to also will zap said content right out of the app the moment they detect the item. the item’s worth noting, however, which Facebook’s moderation efforts have had mixed results.

“the item’s such a big, unmet need, in addition to also no one has actually done a genuinely Great job with apps like This kind of,” Messenger head David Marcus told BuzzFeed News in an interview following the briefing.

Though Facebook has pitched growth initiatives as benevolent programs inside the past, Marcus took issue with the notion which Messenger Kids could be an attempt to hook Facebook users at an early age. “The goal can be not to get kids onto Facebook,” he said. “There’s genuinely no additional reason for us to do This kind of than to actually enable kids to communicate with their parents in addition to also vice versa, in addition to also kids to communicate with their friends within a safe zone which’s controlled by the parents.”

Though the item can be undeniable which Facebook will benefit by getting young people accustomed to using its products — providing a toehold having a demographic the item’s had persistent troubles with — Marcus said there can be no “migration plan” to bring children using Messenger Kids onto the core Messenger product.

Messenger Kids will also take into account parents’ desires to limit their kids’ app usage. The team plans to eventually install parental controls which can limit the amount of time kids can spend using the item, Marcus said, something which seems to make sense in an era where kids have become so dependent on devices which some parents are punishing them by doing them watch TV instead of using their iPads.

At first glance, Messenger Kids appears to give parents in addition to also kids what they’d want. Its privacy settings seem careful. the item doesn’t appear to be part of a blatant scheme for Facebook to add more users. the item doesn’t have ads. Its experience can be fun, with creative just-for-kids face filters, like a shark head, in addition to also augmented-reality visuals which can turn a room into an aquarium with dolphins. in addition to also its creators seem to understand parents’ worries about their children’s screentime.

yet concerns over Messenger Kids will likely linger. With more than 2 billion people using its core product in addition to also more than 1.3 billion using Messenger, Facebook can be so big, in addition to also has publicly stumbled so hard, the item’s doubtful which even its most altruistic effort could be met without skepticism. Still, Marcus seemed happy to be talking about a brand-new product as opposed to a crisis. “the item’s nice,” he said. “Of course the item’s nice to talk about product in addition to also fixing real problems for people.”

Alex Kantrowitz can be a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News in addition to also can be based in San Francisco. He reports on social in addition to also communications.

Contact Alex Kantrowitz at alex.kantrowitz@buzzfeed.com.

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