Facebook has launched a new version of its Messenger app that is aimed at children.
Messenger Kids is being trialled in the US as a standalone app for a smartphone or tablet that is controlled from a parent’s Facebook account and does not create a main Facebook profile for young users.
The social network says the app has been designed to enable children to “safely” video chat and message friends and family, and has been developed in consultation with parents and safety experts.
“Today, parents are increasingly allowing their children to use tablets and smartphones, but often have questions and concerns about how their kids use them and which apps are appropriate,” Facebook’s Loren Cheng said.
“So when we heard about the need for better apps directly from parents during research and conversations with parents, we knew we needed to develop it alongside with the people who were going to use it, as well as experts who could help guide our thinking.
“In addition to our research with thousands of parents, we’ve engaged with over a dozen expert advisers 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.”
Messenger Kids requires parents to set up an account for their child, where only a name is required, with all contacts added and approved by parents from their main Facebook account.
The app is currently only available in the US on Apple’s iOS operating system.
Facebook says the app complies with US child online privacy laws and contains no adverts.
Children’s charity the NSPCC said the app was a positive move but urged the social network to continue working closely with parents.
“Facebook’s Messenger Kids is a step in the right direction in providing safe and age appropriate platforms for younger children to stay connected with family and friends,” a spokesman said.
“However, if this app is launched in the UK, it’s important that parents are given practical advice about how to set these accounts up and which contacts to approve to ensure their children are as safe as possible when using the app.
“We’d also encourage parents to have regular conversations with their children about what information is safe to share online and what to do if they see anything upsetting. Any parent who wants advice on keeping children safe online can contact the NSPCC and O2 helpline on 0808 800 5002.”