Facebook’s effort to appeal to the world’s youngest internet users — children and teenagers — is getting more organized.
The company released a new app on Monday called Messenger Kids, a standalone messaging app specifically for pre-teens who are too young to use Facebook’s service. Behind that app is a relatively new, little-known internal Facebook team, referred to by some as the “Youth Team,” that is specifically focused on building products and features for kids and teens.
The team has around 100 people, according to a source familiar with the company; it built Messenger Kids and Facebook’s recent polling feature. TBH, the anonymous app popular with high school kids that Facebook just acquired in October, has also joined the Youth Team, according to a company spokesperson.
It’s not clear exactly when the team started, but it’s relatively new — one source inside the company estimated it was formed about a year ago. We’ve never heard Facebook mention it until Monday, when the company also announced that it was starting a $1 million fund to invest in academic institutions, nonprofits, research institutions and think thanks focused on kids and teens and how they use technology.
The team is led by Luc Levesque, a product director who joined Facebook at the beginning of the year after almost a decade at TripAdvisor, according to his LinkedIn profile. Levesque reports up to Kang-Xing Jin, known internally as KX, one of Facebook’s top product execs (and a Mark Zuckerberg classmate at Harvard).
“No one thinks kids should be fending for themselves as they begin to socialize and learn to communicate online,” Levesque said in a statement provided by a company spokesperson. “Our hope is this research will help parents, educators, advocates and others make the best possible decisions about technology and children’s lives. We will continue to listen, learn and share our findings as we build products and services for all ages.”
Facebook has made products focused on young people in the past, of course. Facebook has been trying to copy Snapchat since 2012, for example. But the Youth Team — and the $1 million research fund — represents a more formal effort by Facebook to build products and fix problems specific to young internet users. Facebook has similar teams for other efforts, like social good, or building features for users with disabilities.
The company’s focus on young people makes sense. Facebook has more than two billion users, but some of its teen users have been leaving for other apps, like Snapchat. Instagram has been Facebook’s biggest weapon against Snapchat (and other apps popular with teens), but Facebook’s core News Feed is where the company makes most of its money by selling targeted ads. Those advertisers want to reach young people — and Facebook knows that, which is why it’s spending even more time trying to reach them.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.