Your nine-year-old daughter wants her own Facebook account.
“Not until you’re older,” you want to say. After all, users need to be at least 13 years old to create a Facebook account.
Or, at least that used to be the case.
‘It’s a safe way to get their brand into the family young.’
– Richard Lachman, Ryerson University
In the United States, as of Monday, Facebook has launched Messenger Kids, a messaging app for children under 13 that lets them send texts, videos and photographs, as well as add stickers and doodle on their photos.
The app is Facebook’s first product aimed at young children, and its foray into the kids market, the coveted demographic that could bring the social giant their next billion users.
“I’m guessing there will be a seamless path to migrate to the full Facebook and Messenger upon reaching 13,” says Richard Lachman, an associate professor at Ryerson University and director of research development for the Faculty of Communication and Design. “There is a thought that patterns you establish early on will become defaults behaviours,” which is especially true of Facebook he adds “given that it’s harder to leave a service if a critical mass of friends are already part of it.”
So, what could go wrong?
Messenger itself is fairly harmless, says Lachman, likening it to SMS (text messaging), which has no minimum age requirement. As a chat tool, there’s limited concern about bullying or filter bubbles or the spread of misinformation that we’ve come to expect on Facebook proper.
“That’s why Facebook is doing this, of course — it’s a safe way to get their brand into the family young.”
Messenger Kids won’t have any ads, nor will the data from the app be ported over to Facebook proper, so that, let’s say, parents see ads for toys or other things their kids are talking about. According to Facebook, the app gives parents control, only the child’s first name is required, and if a parent decides to delete the Messenger Kids account, all of the associated data will be deleted from Facebook’s servers.
But, he adds, the social networking giant “will want to use this as a gateway … more than any other social media platform, Facebook is planning on long-term and on being part of many…