Facebook launches new Messenger Kids app

Facebook launches Messenger Kids

Keeping young children off social media just got that bit harder – Facebook's new Messenger app has been designed for the under-13s

Parents are wondering how long it will take before the new Facebook Messenger app aimed at children makes its way to the UK. The service has just been launched in the US with strict controls aimed at keeping children safe on the new online app.

At the moment, Facebook states that users of its main network must be over 13. So the new Messenger Kids app has been designed for those too young to use Facebook. One of its main safety features is its strict parental control settings. The child's messenger account exists as an extension of the parent's Facebook account, so although the app is installed on a child's tablet or smartphone, it is controlled from a parent's Facebook account. So, for any two children to communicate via the app, the parents of both children have to approve the request. Similarly, only parents have the ability to add friends and delete messages.

Once confirmed as safe contacts, children will be able to send their friends GIFs, frames, masks and stickers from a library of child-friendly add-ons. Parents can also keep in contact with their child using the app, but the parent will receive messages through the regular Facebook Messenger app.

Facebook has said that a dedicated moderation team has been created to monitor content and that strict filters block children from sharing anything featuring nudity, sexual or violent content.

They have also said that there are no adverts or in-app purchases and users will not be automatically moved onto regular Facebook or Messenger when they turn 13. Although Messenger Kids will have access to the child's name and the content of the messages, none of this information will be used for advertising.

There are thought to be over 20 million 'underage' Facebook account holders – Facebook's rules state that only those over 13 years old are allowed to register, but in reality anyone can sign up – and the likelihood of persuading them to abandon the network is slim. So, by offering a similar but safer version of the same platform, Messenger Kids presents young users – and their parents – with another option (in a world where not having a social media presence simply doesn't feel like an option).

As children are living more of their lives online, a space where it's impossible sometimes for parents to vet their behaviour and the behaviour of others, many are welcoming the launch of Messenger Kids because of the strict controls it appears to have in place.