On Monday, Facebook rolled out its new app — Messenger Kids. The world’s biggest social media company is eyeing on expansion into a so-far untapped market of children under 13, while also giving parents complete control over what their children see.
Facebook normally requires its users be over 13 years old. The new app, however, offers a chance to win brand loyalty from younger children as it has from teens and adults alike.
Facebook said research showed young children were already using technology on a regular basis, but there exists a growing concern among parents that their children might be communicating with strangers.
“There’s really a gap in the market for a messaging app for kids that also gives parents control,” Facebook spokeswoman Lauren Svensson said. “We’re going to see how kids are using it, and that will allow us to add updates in future versions as necessary.”
Facebook wrote in a blog post, “To give kids and parents a fun, safer solution, we built Messenger Kids, a standalone app that lives 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 on the App Store for iPad, iPod touch and iPhone.”
The app is designed to be visually appealing. The home screen has big thumbnail shortcuts to frequent contacts like friends and family, with a heavy emphasis on real-time video chat. Facebook actually created a custom art team just for Messenger Kids, and worked with child development experts across the country to come up with ideas for what would be good for kids at this age, developmentally, and what would be good for their families.