Facebook boss urged to pull Messenger Kids app

In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday, 19 groups - including the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, ACLU of MA, and Parents Across America - called the company's move to launch the app "irresponsible", especially in light of research indicating that excessive use of social media is detrimental to children and teens. According to the press release, only parents can sign their children up for Messenger Kids, and they must approve all s through their own Facebook accounts. "Messenger Kids is not responding to a need-it is creating one".

Facebook launched the free Messenger Kids app in December, calling it a way for children younger than 13 to chat with family members and parent-approved friends.

Facebook also promised that "Your child's information isn't used for ads", but that's hardly the only concern here. Parents and child health experts feared the app would get children addicted to social media at a younger age while lawmakers asked questions about privacy and security.

Tuesday, the group said that it is "especially irresponsible" to encourage children as young as preschoolers to begin a social-media habit.

Despite Facebook's reassurances that Messenger Kids simply wants to give kids a safe space to communicate online, child experts warn that using the app will be to the detriment of the children.

"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".

They are pointing at recent studies that have found links between increased usage and a range of issues like depression, an unhealthy body image, sleep issues, and more. "We continue to be focused on making Messenger Kids the best experience it can be for families", said Antigone Davis, Facebook's global head of safety, in a statement to the Washington Post. 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".

Some companies have offered parental controls as a way of controlling unauthorized preteen use of their platforms. It's been in the top 40 most popular kids' apps since then. 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. "I just feel like as a mother our job is to protect our children and keep them safe".

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". In a society increasingly reliant on cellphones, Apple's devices lack sufficient safeguards, the investors said. "We have been very clear that there is no advertising in Messenger Kids", the spokesperson added.

  • Fernando Stephens