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A joint Facebook study with the National PTA of more than 1,200 American parents of children under the age of 13 found that three of every five parents said their kids under 13 use messaging apps, social media or both, while 81 percent reported their children started using social media between the ages of 8 and 13. 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.

On Monday, Facebook announced its newest child-friendly application, Messenger Kids, now rolling out among iOS users in the United States.

While children do use messaging and social media apps designed for teenagers and adults, those services aren't built for them, said Kristelle Lavallee, a children's psychology expert who advised Facebook on designing the service.
To add people to your child's approved contact list, you can access the Messenger Kids parental controls panel within your main Facebook app by clicking on "More" at the bottom right corner in your main Facebook app, and then by clicking on "Messenger Kids" in the explore section. Markey and Blumenthal in the letter wondered if Facebook would collect the location data of children or if the firm would distribute the data within its own family of companies.

"While we appreciate Facebook taking steps to protect this vulnerable population by including parental controls, establishing an ad-free environment, and restricting some data collection, we remain concerned about where sensitive information collected through this app could end up and for what objective it could be used", they wrote. No message content is collected for ad targeting (same as Messenger), and there's no in-app purchases to worry about. Thus, instead of signing into Facebook, they can communicate with their family or friends via Messenger Kids.

Just as vocal are parents such as Parker Thompson of Alameda, California, who said children's adoption of technology is an inevitability and who appreciated Facebook's approach with the new app.

The company has stated that there will be no ads on Messenger Kids and that children's data will not be used for ads. Kids can block and unblock their parent-approved contacts. When Facebook asked parents about launching a kids' app, many told the company that they did not want a full social network, but had more interest in a communications tool, the company said.

But she added that services like the new messenger app need to be monitored. 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.

Federal law prohibits Internet companies from collecting personal information on kids under 13 without their parents' permission and imposes restrictions on advertising to them.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from Facebook, the Associated Press and Reuters.

The creation of Messenger Kids is not an isolated initiative, rather it comes as part of a conscious push from the social media megaforce to increase its presence amongst youths. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.


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