Facebook has launched a messaging app for kids, which allows parents to control who their children can communicate with.
The new standalone service, Messenger Kids, is designed for children between the ages of six and 12. Users can text, video chat and send photos to friends and family.
The app gives Facebook a chance to “win brand loyalty from younger children at a time when it faces competition for teenagers from other social media platforms such as Snapchat”, says Reuters.
Messenger Kids is currently only available in the US on iOS, but is expected to launch on Amazon and Google app stores in the coming months.
Children under the age of 13 will not be allowed to use the app to create their own account, in accordance with Facebook rules.
Instead, the app effectively serves as an extension of a parent’s account, with adults controlling which friends and family members their child is able to contact.
Facebook says the service offers no adverts or in-app purchases, and children’s information will not be used for advertising purposes.
While on the surface Messenger Kids “seems relatively innocuous” and its developers may have good intentions, “the underlying motive here cannot go unmentioned”, says The Verge.
“Facebook is creating a pipeline for children to become regular users of its products, starting as young as six years old,” the website says.
However, Facebook insists there will be no automatic migration from the Messenger Kids into the main app once users turn 13 and are allowed to create their own account.