Advocacy group urges Facebook to pull Messenger for Kids

Advocacy group urges Facebook to pull Messenger for Kids

Advocacy group urges Facebook to pull Messenger for Kids

On Tuesday, more than a dozen organizations and about 100 health experts sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying the new chat app will likely damage a child's healthy development.

"Younger children are simply not ready to have social media accounts", the letter writers argue.

Facebook says the app offers parents more control over who their children are talking to.

Launched in December 2017, Messenger Kids is a new advertising-free Facebook app targeted at six-to-12-year olds.

Upon announcing the launch of Messenger Kids, Facebook said it will not sell adverts on the app or use the data it collects for marketing purposes.

Senior lecturer at the Open University and child psychological development specialist, John Oates told TechCrunch that social media use in children is a challenging concept to unpick. "They are not old enough to navigate the complexities of online relationships, which often lead to misunderstandings and conflicts even among more mature users", the letter states, adding that children may not understand the implications of sending private videos or pictures. But Facebook's new kid-focused app, which features animations and emoji, seems to target a younger audience, said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Following its introduction last month, child health experts and groups are urging Facebook to kill off its Messenger Kids app. "We worked to create Messenger Kids with an advisory committee of parenting and developmental experts", said Facebook's Antigone Davis in a statement to The Washington Post, "as well as with families themselves and in partnership with National PTA". It cites studies showing that media use by teens is linked to depression, decreased life satisfaction and body image issues.

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Messenger Kids is a standalone messaging and video chat app that lets kids communicate with parent-approved friends and family members on their tablets or smartphones.

Indeed, the company has emphasized the role of parental controls.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Sun that the app is created to help parents and children "chat in a safer way". It has been in the top 40 most popular kids' apps since then. "Facebook needs to make sure it's doing the due diligence of educating parents how to use Messenger Kids safely and effectively with their children". "I just feel like as a mother our job is to protect our children and keep them safe".

Facebook claims that Messenger Kids will provide a safe alternative for the children who have lied their way onto social media platforms designed for teens and adults.

That's troubling, she said, because younger children haven't yet developed the cognitive skills that enable them to think about and regulate their thoughts and actions and "allow them to realize when persuasive technology design might be manipulating them". Rather, the app works as an extension of a parent's account, and parents get controls such as the ability to decide who their kids can chat with.

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