Facebook Opens to Children Under 13 for Messaging

2017-12-07

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[00:00.00]
  • For the first time, Facebook is opening its service to children under age 13.
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  • The social media giant has launched a new app allowing young children to send messages through Facebook.
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  • The free service, called Messenger Kids, must be activated by the child’s parents.
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  • Parents can then create a profile for the child as an extension of their own Facebook account.
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  • Parents must approve all requests before people can connect with the child.
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  • Children aged 6-12 are allowed to use Messenger Kids, which is currently only available for users in the United States.
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  • The app has so far only been released for Apple’s iOS operating system, for use on iPads, iPhones and the iPod touch.
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  • More devices will be added in the future.
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  • The app allows children to send photos, videos and text messages and make video calls.
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  • Colorful pictures, drawings and sounds can be added to messages.
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  • Facebook does not allow children under age 13 to create their own Facebook accounts.
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  • However, experts estimate millions of children under 13 may already be on Facebook after using false information to sign up.
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  • Facebook says it created Messenger Kids to fill a need for a messaging app for children that gives parents full control.
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  • The company said it believes the new app will provide a “fun, safer solution” for children to communicate with family and friends.
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  • Facebook said it developed the app after speaking with thousands of parents, major parental groups and child development experts.
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  • Children and parents can block any contacts at any time.
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  • Children can report bullying or any unwanted communication in the app.
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  • When a child makes a report, the parents are contacted as well.
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  • Messages do not disappear and cannot be hidden by children.
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  • Facebook said Messenger Kids will not show advertisements or collect information for marketing purposes.
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  • U.S. child privacy laws restrict advertising and ban online services from collecting personal information on children under 13 without parental approval.
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  • The company also said it would not automatically move users to the regular Messenger app or Facebook service after they turn 13.
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  • Some individuals and groups have expressed concerns about the new app and questioned Facebook’s true intentions for opening the service up to young users.
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  • James Steyer heads the not-for-profit group Common Sense,
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  • which seeks to promote safe technology and media for children.
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  • He says the idea of giving parents control over Messenger Kids is good.
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  • But, he said it remains to be seen whether the app will continue to stay ad-free.
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  • He also wonders whether the parents of child users will receive ads based on the new service.
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  • “Why should parents simply trust that Facebook is acting in the best interest of kids?” Steyer said in a statement.
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  • “We encourage Facebook to clarify their policies from the start so that it is perfectly clear what parents are signing up for.”
  • [05:02.41]
  • The Center for Digital Democracy praised Facebook for creating a “walled garden” approach to the new messenger service.
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  • The steps taken show that Facebook is taking “a leadership role in developing responsible corporate practices that could be the basis for industry-wide guidelines,” the group said in a statement.
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  • But the group added that it is still too early to fully understand the effects such technology will have on young people’s psychological and social development.
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  • It urged parents, educators and company officials to closely monitor such services as they grow and to make changes as needed.
  • [05:59.46]
  • I’m Bryan Lynn.
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