How young is too young to be on social media? But the prevention methods are trivial, meaning more than 20 million under-13-year-olds are thought to be using the network. These controls are accessible through the main Facebook app.
Facebook says it will not automatically convert children's Messenger Kids accounts to adult accounts once they turn 13, nor will it use information collected about its youthful users for marketing purposes.
The Fountas family got a chance to try out the app. The standalone app, designed for children aged six to 12, can be controlled from a parent's Facebook account. Facebook said it was fully compliant with the US Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act, and that it had worked with online safety experts including the National PTA and Blue Star Families.
Facebook has promised the data will not be used in any way to power the "grown up" Facebook.
That being said, the probability of having our son or daughter talking to a stranger is immeasurably low, considering that parents are in charge of supervising and accepting or not both messages and contacts. It will require them to download the app and create a Messenger Kids account while using their Facebook account for authentication.
Here's a step-by-step from Facebook on how to make that happen.
Parents can remove contacts from the app, and children can't reinstate them. Dubbed as Messenger Kids, the app enables preteens to safely communicate with their parents and friends, claims the company.
In a separate blog post, named "Hard Questions", Facebook's Public Policy Director Antigone Davis writes, "Children today are online earlier and earlier".
She said that research has shown that social media can be a detriment to children's brain, emotional and physical development.
There is tentative support for what Facebook is doing.
"It's a very lucrative market; companies want to capture these people, these children, so they can keep them throughout their lives", said Kathryn Montgomery, a communications professor at American University and an advocate who helped get COPPA passed. It's a restrictive system, but one that highlights how tricky it is to give children access to social media, and particularly an app that's operated by one of the world's largest (and most controversial) social media firms.
The app, called Messenger Kids, allows users under the age of 13 to send texts, videos and photos; they can draw on the pictures they send and add stickers. "They need to be outside, interacting with their friends (and family) in person and learning how to have real conversation and social skills", Hempe said.
"We appreciate that for now, the product is ad-free and appears created to put parents in control". Once their account is set up by a parent, kids can start a one-on-one or group video chat with parent-approved contacts.