Inside Facebook's Messenger Kids: Do Parents Have Enough Control?

Loren Cheng knows firsthand how Facebook’s conversations with parents shaped the creation of its first messaging app for kids. As a product management director for the tech firm, he helped guide the team that developed Messenger Kids — an app that allows children under 13 years old to send texts, images and videos to friends and relatives that their parents approve.

“One of the things that we noticed is that kids are getting devices younger and younger,” said Cheng, who is also a father of three children.

Released this month in the United States, Messenger Kids drew mixed reactions. Some thought Facebook built the app in a way that gave parents enough control while others still worry about privacy and cyberbullying.

Cheng recently sat down with this news organization to talk about the origins of Messenger Kids and addressed some of the privacy concerns. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: What did Facebook learn from its conversations with parents?

A: Parents really want their kids to be socializing and connected with others, whether that’s family members or other kids. One of the things they wondered about was if there’s some way technology can play a role. On the flip side, they’re also super concerned. Parents have grown up in a certain generation, and they think they understand technology pretty well. But the technology is changing so quickly that they worry about how their kids are using it.

Q: What was your role as a product management director in the development of Messenger Kids?

A: Product managers make sure a decision is made. Especially with a product like Messenger Kids, the team really took it seriously. There were a lot of strong opinions about how it should be built. That can make it harder to make decisions sometimes because everyone feels really convicted about…
Source: Mobile Tech Today

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