Facebook today is rolling out an updated version of its Messenger Kids app with the goal of making it easier for kids to interact with their friends and family, navigate the app, and personalize their experience with features like custom chat bubble colors. The redesign also gives the kid-friendly app a look-and-feel.
Facebook has opened up to children under age 13 with a privacy-focused app designed to neutralize child predator threats that plague youth-focused competitors like Snapchat. Rolling out today on iOS in the US “Messenger Kids” lets parents download the app on their child’s phone or tablet, create a profile for them and approve friends and family with whom they can text and video chat from the main Messenger app. Tweens don’t sign up for a Facebook account and don’t need a phone number, but can communicate with other Messenger and Messenger Kids users parents sign-off on, so younger siblings don’t get left out of the family group chat.
While the app does offer a suite of parental controls that make it easier for parents to monitor and restrict how and when their children chat online but beware this app collects a lot of personal information, including names, profile photos, demographic details (gender and birthday), a child’s connection to parents, contacts’ information (like most frequent contacts), app usage information, device attributes and unique identifiers, data from device settings (like time zones or access to camera and photos), network information and information provided from things like bug reports or feedback/contact forms. While some of this does allow the app to properly function, there’s also concern from some parents about how this data is really being used.