Facebook is coming for your kids. The social media giant is launching a messaging app for children to chat with their parents and with friends approved by their parents, per the AP. The free app is aimed at kids under 13, who can't yet have their own accounts under Facebook's rules, though they often do. Messenger Kids comes with a slew of controls for parents. The service won't let children add their own friends or delete messages—only parents can do that. Kids don't get a separate Facebook or Messenger account; rather, it's an extension of a parent's account. As with other tools Facebook has released in the past, intentions and real-world use might not match up. Facebook's live video streaming feature, for example, has been used for plenty of innocuous and useful things, but also to stream crimes and suicides.
Is Messenger Kids simply a way for Facebook to rope in the young ones? Stephen Balkam, CEO of the nonprofit Family Online Safety Institute, said "that train has left the station." Federal law prohibits internet companies from collecting personal information on kids under 13 without their parents' permission and imposes restrictions on advertising to them. This is why Facebook and many other social media companies prohibit younger kids from joining. Even so, Balkam said millions of kids under 13 are already on Facebook, with or without their parents' approval. He said Facebook is trying to deal with the situation pragmatically by steering young Facebook users to a service designed for them.