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Experts call on Facebook to pull Messenger Kids app

02 February, 2018, 12:06 | Author: Abraham Jackson
  • Experts call on Facebook to pull Messenger Kids app

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.

But a group of more than 110 child health advocates led by the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood say Facebook should delete Messenger Kids altogether.

Only parents can sign up children to Messenger Kids, and all contacts need to be approved by a parent before a child can chat.

Launched in December 2017, Messenger Kids is a new advertising-free Facebook app targeted at six-to-12-year olds. Facebook said at launch that it won't display any ads in the app and that there would be no in-app purchases.

Since parents are given control of their child's account, Facebook asserted that Messenger Kids would be filling a "need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want". "It appeals primarily to children who otherwise would not have their own social media accounts", the letter reads.

The watchdogs say that young children aren't able to "navigate the complexities of online relationships", and also "do not have a fully developed understanding of privacy, including what's appropriate to share with others and who has access to their conversations, pictures, and videos".

Facebook is under fire from child health experts over its new app, Messenger Kids.

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"We worked to create Messenger Kids with an advisory committee of parenting and developmental experts, as well as with families themselves and in partnership with National PTA".

The letter cites a variety of studies that have demonstrated the effects of social media usage among teens, quoting various side effects including depressions, unhappiness, unhealthy sleep habits, and even eating disorders. But talking to family and friends over long distances doesn't require a Messenger Kids account.

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

"After talking to thousands of parents, associations like National PTA, and parenting experts in the USA, 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", Facebook Product Management Director, Loren Cheng, at the time.

The campaign against Facebook's Messenger Kids follows another high-profile push against a Silicon Valley giant. It doesn't even require kids to use their real name for the service, unlike Facebook proper.

Facebook isn't the only tech company facing criticism for its role in kid's use of technology. They can also just pick up a phone ... In a society increasingly reliant on cellphones, Apple's devices lack sufficient safeguards, the investors said. The groups and individuals who oppose Messenger Kids are attempting to seize on that momentum and prompt a shift at Facebook and the industry. However, an advocacy group is arguing that none of those features matter because, they say, Messenger Kids is inherently risky to kids. The app works as an extension of a parent's account, and parents get controls.

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