Facebook has pitched Messenger Kids as a way for parents to exercise social media management in their families by setting up messenger accounts for children too young to join the social network. But a group of more than 100 experts want Mark Zuckerberg’s company to ditch the app.
In a letter to the Facebook CEO, the child advocates, medical experts and civil society groups say the app isn’t appropriate for children and, in fact, no social media really is.
“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. They 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,” the group writes in its letter.
Facebook launched Messenger Kids late last year. Since its unveiling, the app has ignited a debate over kids’ social media use. Messenger Kids allows children under the age of 13 to connect to other people through text and video chats, either one-on-one or in groups. The app itself requires a parent’s permission to sign up, and then every contact must first be approved by a parent. If two children want to connect with each other, each child’s parent must approve. The home screen displays whom children can talk to and when those contacts are online. Messenger Kids also includes what Facebook has described as a “library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools lets them decorate content and express their personalities.”
The app offers Facebook access to a new market whose age prohibits them from using the company’s main social network. Facebook has positioned Messenger Kids as a safer form of social media that gives parents a higher degree of control. For years, major tech firms have complied with child privacy law by not allowing kids under the age of 13 to sign up for their services. But as a wide variety of gadgets and services have moved deeper into the home, companies with an eye for growth have come to see the market for children as an opportunity for expansion.