Facebook recently launched Messenger Kids as a solution for kids under 13 to be on social media without having their own Facebook account, but child experts still warn of its impacts and urge Facebook to scrap the app.
While Facebook typically requires users to be at least 13 to use its products, Messenger Kids is designed for the younger ones, allowing them to piggyback on their parent's account and talk only to parent-approved contacts.
Facebook Messenger Kids App
Facebook said that it created Messenger Kids after consulting with experts from a number of fields including child development, online safety, and children's media and technology. The app aims to offer proper parental controls to encourage responsible communication.
The kid-friendly app also comes with a number of safety filters that prevent kids from sharing any nudity, violence, sexual content, or any other type of inappropriate content.
Child Experts Urge Facebook To Pull Messenger Kids
Despite Facebook's reassurances that Messenger Kids simply wants to give kids a safe space to communicate online, child experts warn that using the app will be to the detriment of the children.
More than 100 child development experts and advocates warn that allowing young children to use social media may have dire repercussions, so they sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asking for Messenger Kids to be shut down.
Non-profit organization Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is leading this campaign against Messenger Kids, arguing that launching an app specifically targeted at preschoolers is particularly irresponsible.It also started a public petition seeking to gain more supporters in its fight against Messenger Kids.
Kids Are Not Ready For Social Media
The public letter to Zuckerberg points to a research, which shows that excessively using social media and digital devices has a negative impact on kids and teenagers. That makes Messenger Kids a prime candidate for affecting the healthy development of a child.
"Younger children are simply not ready to have social media accounts. They are not old enough to navigate the complexities of online relationships, which often lead to misunderstandings and conflicts even among more mature users," reads the letter.
CCFC further notes that kids don't fully understand privacy yet. They might not know what would be inappropriate to share with others, or who else might get access to their chats, photos, and videos.
Messenger Kids Is 'Particularly Irresponsible'
"At a time when there is mounting concern about how social media use affects adolescents' wellbeing, it is particularly irresponsible to encourage children as young as preschoolers to start using a Facebook product."
The group also argues that using Facebook's Messenger Kids will likely increase young kids' digital device use, and will affect kids' face-to-face interactions.
"Raising children in our new digital age is difficult enough," adds the group. "We ask that you do not use Facebook's enormous reach and influence to make it even harder."