The Facebook Messenger Kids app can have severe repercussions on kids, according to child health advocates. In an open letter to Facebook, child health advocates have asked the social networking giant to scrap the kid’s app.
Why Messenger Kids app is not good for kids?
In December, Facebook launched a Snapchat-like app for under 13s in the U.S. At the time, Facebook said that the Messenger Kids app had been made in collaboration with parents, kids and experts. The app, according to the social networking company, is an “easier and safer way” for kids to communicate with family and friends when they are not around.
The Facebook Messenger Kids app does not give the kid a separate account; rather it works like an extension to the Facebook account of their parents. The control lies with the parents, who decide things like whom their kids can chat with.
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At the time of launch, Facebook said the app meets “a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want.”
Advocacy Groups, however, do not find the claims made by Facebook convincing enough. Child health advocates say that it is “irresponsible” of Facebook to even promote such an app at a time when the overall effect of social media is debatable.
Some 100 experts led by Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood believe that the Messenger Kids app is harmful. The group constitutes educators, pediatricians, psychiatrists and children’s music singer Raffi Cavoukian.
In an open letter to Facebook, the group said: “Messenger Kids in not responding to a need – it is creating one.”
The letter further read that the app lures in the children, who otherwise wouldn’t have a social media account. Also, the experts did not like Facebook’s strategy of targeting younger children with a new product.
All except Facebook agree on one thing
Last fall, a study by the UK media watchdog Ofcom revealed that kids over thirteen are increasingly using the social media despite social networks defining the age limit for signups. In the European Union, the upcoming GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is setting the age limit for kids to use social media at 13 years, but member states can choose to increase the limit to 16 years, according to TechCrunch.
Despite such measures, it is almost impossible to keep a check on the kids who use the mobile device from accessing social networking sites or other apps. Policing by parents is the only likely solution. For instance, the UK government’s Children’s Commissioner for England recently asked parents to stop children from using the Snapchat-like apps fearing the negative impact such addictive tools can have on kids.
Facebook, on the other hand, claims that it has received positive reviews from parents that the Messenger Kids app had helped them to stay in touch with their children. In an email statement to USA Today, the company noted that parents have narrated stories, where they work night shifts and still have the time to read bedtime stories to their children. Also, moms who travel for work get constant updates from their kids with the help of the app.