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Facebook's Messenger Kids to now be available in India and 69 other countries

Facebook's Messenger Kids to now be available in India and 69 other countries

Facebook is launching its Messenger Kids app in over 70 new countries today, the company has announced. A help page on Facebook’s website lists Brazil, India, Japan, and New Zealand among the countries where the kid-focused messaging service is now available. Facebook also announced a number of tweaks it’s making to how the app works.

Facebook has taken its time to roll out Messenger Kids to new markets since its original US launch in 2017 and expansion into Canada and Peru in 2018. Facebook says that it’s launching in more countries as children around the world are having to learn remotely while schools remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Facebook is also tweaking how children and their parents can use the service. Parents can now opt in to letting their children control their own friend requests rather than having to manage every request on their behalf. However, parents will still receive notifications about the Messenger friends their children are making, and can override any connections if they wish.

Groups are also changing. Parents will soon be able to approve an adult — such as a teacher, coach, or another parent — to manage a group chat with their children in it. Finally, parents will also be able to opt-in to make their kids’ names and profile photos visible to friends of friends in the US, Canada, and Latin America.

Facebook’s child-focused service has been controversial in the past. Last year an implementation error allowed children to create group chats with people that their parents hadn’t approved. The oversight generated a congressional backlash, with senators pushing Facebook to take a more proactive approach to privacy and security.

Messenger Kids will start rolling out in the new markets starting today. Meanwhile the new friend request and group functionality will be available in the US starting today, with an international roll out to follow.

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook on Wednesday rolled out its Messenger Kids application to 70 new countries, saying it can help children deal with the challenges of distance learning and isolation during the virus lockdowns. The app, which is aimed at children under 13, will also be adding a "supervised friending" feature enabling parents to approve new connections, starting in the United States and gradually rolling out to other countries.

"With schools closed and people physically distancing, parents are turning to technology more than ever to help their kids connect with friends and family," Facebook's global head of safety Antigone Davis said in a blog post.

"Messenger Kids is a video chat and messaging app that helps kids connect with friends and family in a fun, parent-controlled space. Today, we're starting to roll out Messenger Kids to more countries and we're adding new choices for parents to connect kids with friends." Messenger Kids was launched in the United States in 2017 and expanded later to Canada and a handful of other countries, aiming at children too young for a Facebook account.

With the changes announced Wednesday, kids will be able to connect in groups to help facilitate learning, under parental supervision.

Parents in the US, Canada and Latin America can also allow their children to make their name and profile photo visible as part of the move to get more friends. Kids will be able to initiate their own friend requests. Up to now these had to be initiated by the parents.

"Parents have told us they want to be able to give their kids more independence in managing their contact list while still maintaining parental supervision," Davis said.

"Previously, it was up to parents to invite and approve every contact for their child. Now with supervised friending, parents can choose to allow their kids to also accept, reject, add or remove contacts, while maintaining the ability to override any new contact approvals." Some privacy activists have argued the app could be harmful to children by drawing them into online activity and potentially gathering data on them.

Facebook has argued that the app helps parents supervise their youngsters who would be using its platform without safeguards. The new countries are in various regions of the world and include Afghanistan, Costa Rica, Indonesia and Tuvalu. No European countries are on the list.

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