Next to millennials, one of the groups most coveted by brand marketers is "Generation Z," the consumers of tomorrow who were born between 1996 and 2010. On Monday, Facebook established a beachhead with that demographic in the realm of augmented reality by launching Facebook Messenger Kids.
"After talking to thousands of parents, associations like National PTA, and parenting experts in the US, we found that there's a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want," said Loren Cheng, Facebook's product management director, in a company statement.
"In addition to our research with thousands of parents, we've engaged with over a dozen expert advisors in the areas of child development, online safety, and children's media and technology who've helped inform our approach to building our first app for kids."
One of the key features of Messenger Kids is the fact that parents control the child's contact list, and only contacts that the parent approves will be able to connect to the child's account (which doesn't require a phone number from the child).
The new app is designed to serve as a more robust filter for parents looking to protect their children from potentially inappropriate contacts and content from some of Facebook's over 2 billion users. In fact, children can't even set up their own account — the account must be set up by a parent with an existing Facebook account.
But beyond the safety of children, with this new app represents is a major shot across the bow to Snapchat. While Snapchat is pivoting to try to stop the bleeding of losing current users to Facebook-owned Instagram and Messenger, Facebook has wisely decided to devote a specific app to children that mirrors many of Snapchat's features. That move that could potentially capture a huge number of new, younger users for Facebook who might otherwise use Snapchat now and in the future.
Demonstration videos of the new app show off the real-time face masks that are popular on both Snapchat and Facebook Messenger, which provide the first entryway for many users into the quickly expanding world of AR. Along with those specially chosen, child-appropriate real-time masks are stickers, frames, and GIFs.
Another major feature, or lack thereof, is the fact that there are no ads in Messenger Kids. Similarly, in-app purchases aren't allowed on the app. Clearly, this is less about revenue and more about capturing future users (for now).
"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 the people who were going to use it, as well as experts who could help guide our thinking," said Cheng.
Currently, the app is only available in the US for iOS devices (iPhone, iPad, etc.), with Android and Amazon versions coming soon.