Child Welfare Advocates Cry Foul over Facebook Messenger Kids

February 1, 2018, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Over the past few years, social media platforms have become a daily routine for youngsters. People, when looking at the advantages of social media, fail to recognize its opposite side. One of the most debated topics throughout the world is whether social media is a boon or a bane to mankind. Many reports talk of the negative side.

An open letter, warning about the harmful side of the Facebook Messenger Kids application was addressed to CEO, Mark Zuckerberg by a group that leads the campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood. The letter states that the application is harmful to children and teens and that it can undermine children’s health development.

Facebook Messenger Kids, which was launched in December 2017, is the last one which was added to the social media family. The application, specially designed for children aged 6-12, was launched amidst mixed reviews. Facebook was asked to shut down Messenger Kids by more than 100 child development experts, health advocacy groups, educators, and parents.

The regular version cannot be used by the children under the age of 13 as it is against the Federal law. The application was launched as a solution for the parents who want to communicate to their children through Facebook. According to Facebook, the Messenger Kids account can only be created with the help of parents.

Even though these are the general data available on the Messenger Kids, the group that came up with the open letter slams the application stating that it creates peer pressure for the children to join social media platforms and this in turn will probably have a negative impact on families and society. In the letter, pointing out that children do not have a complete understanding of privacy, they say that the young children are not yet organized enough to use social media.

Backing up their statement, the group said that the kids are unaware of what is fit to be shared and who has access to their conversations, pictures, and videos. They assert that encouraging young preschoolers to use Facebook products is an irresponsible move when we are already concerned about the well-being of the adolescent media users.

Former Facebook President Sean Parker was also heard criticizing the social network’s intentionally addictive design, before the launch of Messenger Kids. Saying that this is exactly the type of thing that a hacker would come up with, Parker shared his concern that only God knows how such platforms are influencing children.

Responding to the open letter, Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, said that in order to make the application safe for children, it was developed in collaboration with child experts. To create Messenger Kids, the company worked with an advisory committee of parenting and developmental experts and families, she added.

According to Apptopia, Messenger Kids has daily users of about 20,000 with 45,000 downloads since its launch.


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