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is opening up to children under age 13 with a privacy-focused app designed to neutralize child predator threats that plague youth-focused competitors like Snapchat. S., “Messenger Kids” lets parents download the app on their child’s phone or tablet, create a profile for them and approve friends and family with whom they can text and video chat from the main Messenger app.

“In other apps, they can contact anyone they want or be contacted by anyone,” Facebook’s head of Messenger David Marcus notes.

Special proactive detection safety filters prevent children from sharing nudity, sexual content or violence, while a dedicated support team will respond quickly to reported or flagged content.

Facebook even manually sifted Giphy to build a kid-friendly version of the GIF-sharing engine.

And with childish augmented reality masks and stickers, video calls with grandma could be a lot more fun and a lot less silent or awkward.

Facebook won’t be directly monetizing Messenger Kids, automatically migrating kids to real accounts when they turn 13 or collecting data so that it complies with Children’s Online Privacy Protections Act (COPPA) law.

But the app could prime kids to become lifelong Facebook users, and lock their families deeply into the platform where they’ll see ads.

“When you think about things at scale that we do to get people to care more about Messenger, this is one that addresses a real need for parents,” say Facebook’s head of Messenger David Marcus.

“But the side effect will be that they use Messenger more and create family groups.” Marcus tells me he’s excited about getting his 8-year-old into the family chat alongside his 14- and 17-year-old children.

It’s important to understand that kids under 13 still can’t sign up for a Facebook account.

Instead, parents download the Messenger Kids app to a child’s i Phone or i Pad (Android coming soon).

Once the parent has authenticated it with their own account, they set up a mini-profile with their kid’s name and photo.

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