New kids messenger app unveiled by Facebook

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Image: Facebook says the app will enable children to safely video chat and message

Facebook has launched a new version of its Messenger app for kids, giving parents complete control over what their children see.

Messenger Kids is being trialled in the US as a standalone app that does not require a main Facebook profile – allowing children under the age of 13 to use it.

The app is controlled through a parent's Facebook account, from which contacts can be added and approved.

Facebook says the app has been designed to enable children to "safely" video chat and message friends and family.

It added that during 18 months of development it consulted with 1,200 parents, as well as online security and child development specialists.

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The app is controlled from a parent's Facebook account
Image: The app is currently only available in the US on Apple's iOS operating system

"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," Facebook director Loren Cheng said.

"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 with the people who were going to use it, as well as experts who could help guide our thinking."

The social network says Messenger Kids complies with US child online privacy laws and contains no adverts.

It is currently only available in the US on Apple's iOS operating system.

The app is currently only available in the US on Apple's iOS operating system
Image: Messenger Kids is controlled from a parent's Facebook account

The NSPCC said the app was "a step in the right direction" but urged Facebook to consult with parents.

A spokesperson said: "If this app is launched in the UK, it's important that parents are given practical advice about how to set these accounts up and which contacts to approve to ensure their children are as safe as possible when using the app.

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"We'd also encourage parents to have regular conversations with their children about what information is safe to share online and what to do if they see anything upsetting.

"Any parent who wants advice on keeping children safe online can contact the NSPCC and O2 helpline on 0808 800 5002."