[00:00.00]For the first time, Facebook is opening its service to children under age 13.
[00:08.91]The social media giant has launched a new app allowing young children to send messages through Facebook.
[00:20.21]The free service, called Messenger Kids, must be activated by the child’s parents.
[00:30.46]Parents can then create a profile for the child as an extension of their own Facebook account.
[00:39.66]Parents must approve all requests before people can connect with the child.
[00:47.26]Children aged 6-12 are allowed to use Messenger Kids, which is currently only available for users in the United States.
[01:01.31]The app has so far only been released for Apple’s iOS operating system, for use on iPads, iPhones and the iPod touch.
[01:14.24]More devices will be added in the future.
[01:18.78]The app allows children to send photos, videos and text messages and make video calls.
[01:31.04]Colorful pictures, drawings and sounds can be added to messages.
[01:37.93]Facebook does not allow children under age 13 to create their own Facebook accounts.
[01:47.62]However, experts estimate millions of children under 13 may already be on Facebook after using false information to sign up.
[02:01.46]Facebook says it created Messenger Kids to fill a need for a messaging app for children that gives parents full control.
[02:13.98]The company said it believes the new app will provide a “fun, safer solution” for children to communicate with family and friends.
[02:26.01]Facebook said it developed the app after speaking with thousands of parents, major parental groups and child development experts.
[02:38.84]Children and parents can block any contacts at any time.
[02:45.78]Children can report bullying or any unwanted communication in the app.
[02:52.96]When a child makes a report, the parents are contacted as well.
[02:59.71]Messages do not disappear and cannot be hidden by children.
[03:05.91]Facebook said Messenger Kids will not show advertisements or collect information for marketing purposes.
[03:16.95]U.S. child privacy laws restrict advertising and ban online services from collecting personal information on children under 13 without parental approval.
[03:33.34]The company also said it would not automatically move users to the regular Messenger app or Facebook service after they turn 13.
[03:46.87]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.
[04:01.19]James Steyer heads the not-for-profit group Common Sense,
[04:08.03]which seeks to promote safe technology and media for children.
[04:14.97]He says the idea of giving parents control over Messenger Kids is good.
[04:22.84]But, he said it remains to be seen whether the app will continue to stay ad-free.
[04:30.37]He also wonders whether the parents of child users will receive ads based on the new service.
[04:39.30]“Why should parents simply trust that Facebook is acting in the best interest of kids?” Steyer said in a statement.
[04:50.47]“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.
[05:13.64]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.
[05:31.77]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.
[05:46.90]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.