Facebook has created a new version of its instant messaging app that is designed for children.
Messenger Kids was introduced on Monday and a preview release is now available on Apple devices. It will be rolled out to a wider digital audience in the coming months.
Facebook says the messaging app is intended to provide a more controlled environment for tech-savvy children of the digital generation. It is targeted towards children under 13, who are legally too young to be on Facebook.
Users are not required to create their own accounts. Instead, Messenger Kids is linked to the Facebook account of parents, who then approve a list of contacts their child is allowed to communicate with. Any additional contact requests must also be approved by the parent.
Users can communicate via text and video chat, and are able to send photos to which they can add filters and drawings.
The app marks a bold new move for social media and technology companies, which have traditionally avoided engaging with children. Companies like YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram have official policies stating that their services are not intended for anyone under 13.
But children are still major users of these websites and apps, despite formal age restrictions. Messenger Kids is Facebook's attempt to corner the pre-teen market for instant messaging and 'hook' children onto the Facebook brand, before they are even old enough to make their own account.
Facebook says it will not automatically convert children's Messenger Kids accounts to adult accounts once they turn 13, nor will it use information collected about its youthful users for marketing purposes.