According to Facebook, Messenger Kids is a new app that, “makes it easier for kids to safely video chat and message with family and friends when they can’t be together in person.”
We’ve engaged with over a dozen expert advisors in the areas of child development, online safety and children’s media and technology…
In December 2017, Facebook launched Messenger Kids, a social media app designed for children who are 13 years of age or younger. It’s like the familiar Messenger app that Facebook sort-of forced on us for messaging on the mobile or app version of their platform, but you know, for kids… Of course, not everyone agrees with the idea; with kids being the target user and on the impact that this unprecedented social media app could have on children’s development.
Facebook’s justification to this is that today, parents are allowing, supporting, and enabling the use of smartphones and other digital devices that are not necessarily designed with them in mind. They’re basically saying: the kids are already using it, why not make it safe! In fact, Facebook claims there is a “need” for this kind of app that -in their words- “lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want”.
Parents seem to be sold on the idea of “parental control” behind the app, as emphasized in Facebook’s promotional video for the Messenger Kids app, which was released on December 4, 2017. Not to mention, the kids are stoked over it; it’s easy when you consider the integrated playful mask filters, emojis, etc.
So is it all fun and games? What could possibly go wrong here? Should we be worried about the safety of our children?
Hook new users before they reach high school: that seems to be the goal behind one of the company’s latest initiatives, anyways.
Well, according to Futurism, a popular science and technology website, Facebook is only trying to “hook new users before they reach high school”.
Moreover, here’s what the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) had to say in a letter they sent to Facebook, demanding that they take down Messenger Kids:
We understand that not all relationships can be face-to-face. One of Facebook’s stated rationales for creating Messenger Kids is to help kids connect with long-distance family members, including parents in the military. But talking to family and friends over long distances doesn’t require a Messenger Kids account. Kids can use parents’ Facebook, Skype, or other accounts to chat with relatives. They can also just pick up a phone.
Consider these concerns shared by the CCFC:
- Children are not old enough for the complexities of the online world.
- Young kids lack a concrete understanding of privacy.
- Currently existing concerns with the negative effects that social media use has on adolescents.
So whether you side with Facebook, and think children need their own social media platform to connect with close friends and family or with the CCFC, and others alike, that it’s more harmful than helpful, be sure to check out KidsLiveSafe to learn how to keep your kids safe from sexual predators and more.