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Facebook previews Messenger Kids, new messaging and video chat for children

The stand-alone app on children’s devices can be controlled by a parent’s Facebook account that will allow kids to use video chat and send

This, combined with the fact that parents have to approve each of their children's contacts, should prevent phony accounts from appearing on the platform, a practice that's become a huge problem for Facebook. Right now Messenger Kids is designed for sending messages and video chatting, but Facebook hasn't ruled out the possibility of adding new features as it learns more about how people use the app.

The app, Messenger for Kids, will allow parents to have control over who their child chats or video calls with, as the app will be a part of the parents' own Facebook account. As is the case with the regular Facebook app, the camera in Messenger Kids is loaded with stickers and effects - all of which have been made specifically for the child-friendly app and aren't available in Facebook's other services.

"[Messenger Kids] doesn't overcome the issues of screen time and screen use and all the other issues that go with technology and kids", Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, told The Post. Kids can't delete messages either, so theoretically if a child is using inappropriate language, they wouldn't be able to erase what they've said.

Also, unlike the regular version of Facebook, children under 13 on the app won't have Facebook accounts associated with their app. Facebook's current policy doesn't let individuals under 13 create accounts. The app was 18 months in development, Svensson said.

"The reality is that kids are going to go use apps if they're under 13", he said. Despite US federal law prohibiting companies from collecting personal information on those under 13 years old without parental consent, millions are already on Facebook, with or without their parents' permission, says Stephen Balkam, chief executive of the nonprofit Family Online Safety Institute.

"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", wrote Loren Cheng, Facebook's product management director in a blog post. With Messenger Kids, she said, Facebook has thought through what's appropriate for kids.

For families who prefer an Android flavor of Messenger, fret not, there will be a version arriving on Google Play and the Amazon App Store "in the coming months". A recent study from Common Sense Media found that parents are more skeptical of the benefits of social media for their children then they are of smartphones or even wearable devices. In order to befriend another child in Messenger Kids, a parent must also be friends with that child's parent on Facebook.

Facebook, like other social media sites, requires that users be at least 13 years old to sign up for an account.

But kids can't sign up on their own.