In a bid to help families connect better, Facebook on Monday introduced Messenger Kids that will make it easier for children to safely video chat and message with family and friends when they can't be together in person. Rolled out in the US for the moment, Messenger Kids is a stand-alone app that will be available on kids' tablets or smartphones but can be controlled from a parent's Facebook account.
"Whether it's using video chat to talk to grandparents, staying in touch with cousins who live far away, or sending mom a decorated photo while she's working late to say hi, Messenger Kids opens up a new world of online communication to families. This preview is available in the App Store for iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone," Loren Cheng, Product Management Director at Facebook, wrote in a blog post.
After talking to thousands of parents, associations like National PTA and parenting experts, Facebook 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 over a 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," Cheng added.
Facebook also had thought-provoking conversations around topics of responsible online communication, parental controls and much more where the social media giant heard first-hand how parents and caregivers approach raising children in today's digitally connected world.
Once the account is set up by a parent, kids can start a one-on-one or group video chat with parent-approved contacts.
In addition to video chat, kids can send photos, videos or text messages to their parent-approved friends and adult relatives, who will receive the messages via their regular Messenger app.
Parents can set up Messenger Kids account in four steps.
First, download the Messenger Kids app on your child's iPad, iPod touch or iPhone from the App Store.
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.
Now 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.
At the end, to add people to your child's approved contact list, go to the Messenger Kids parental controls panel in your main Facebook app.
"There are no ads in Messenger Kids and your child's information isn't used for ads. It is free to download and there are no in-app purchases. Messenger Kids is also designed to be compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA)," Facebook said.