Facebook has introduced its first tailored app designed exclusively for the use of pre-teens as it effectively acknowledges that efforts to prevent people aged under 13 from opening accounts have failed.
There are an estimated 20 million users aged 13 or less active on the social networking platform and it is these members Facebook will target with Messenger Kids, a ringfenced network which requires parental approval to activate. It will also ban the use of data for advertising.
In practice this means that the parents of two children must both authorize a friendship before they can begin communicating via live chat, pictures or text. Members will also be able to draw upon a library of age specific content such as GIFs, stickers and masks.
Loren Cheng, product manager for Messenger Kids, commented: “Parents are increasingly allowing their children to use tablets and smartphones, but often have questions and concerns about how their kids use them and which apps are appropriate.
"So when we heard about the need for better apps directly from parents during research and conversations with parents, we knew we needed to develop it alongside the people who were going to use it, as well as experts who could help guide our thinking."
There will be no formal age verification carried out on Messenger Kids but users will be able to upgrade to the main Facebook app when they are of age – although this will be in the form of a brand new account with no carry over of data.
Messenger recently drew level with WhatsApp in terms of monthly users with 1.3 billion people logging in, although Facebook clearly believes there's room for further growth by targeting the next generation early.