Experts call on Facebook to pull Messenger Kids app
31 January, 2018, 10:51 | Author: Martin Tyler
Many child health experts are concerned Facebook's using Messenger Kids as a way to increase its chances of convincing children to use its main platform. But Facebook's new kid-focused app, which features animations and emoji, seems to target a younger audience, said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
In their letter, the groups cited research indicating that social media use by teens is linked to "significantly higher rates of depression", as well as body-image issues and unhealthy sleep habits.
"Raising children in our new digital age is hard enough", the letter said. But talking to family and friends over long distances doesn't require a Messenger Kids account. The groups and individuals who oppose Messenger Kids are attempting to seize on that momentum and prompt a shift at Facebook and the industry.
The app works like this: To set it up, a parent has to use his or her own Facebook account.
A Facebook spokesperson told The Sun that the app is created to help parents and children "chat in a safer way".
Upon announcing the launch of Messenger Kids, Facebook said it will not sell adverts on the app or use the data it collects for marketing purposes.
"Younger children are simply not ready to have social media accounts", reads the letter, which was organized by the. But App Annie, a company that studies app use, said Messenger Kids has been downloaded about 80,000 times on iOS since it launched December 4.
The letter is signed by a range of child welfare groups, chief among them the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
Today, in the United States, we're rolling out a preview of Messenger Kids, 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.
Messenger Kids, the "child-friendly" version of the company's immensely popular chat app, comes with a suite of parental controls. 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.
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"Doing better is leaving younger children alone and allowing them to develop without the pressures that come with social media use", the letter concludes.
Although the app is not yet available in the UK, Barnardo's chief Javed Khan told The Daily Telegraph a year ago that the charity has "serious concerns" about Messenger Kids launching in Europe.
Only parents can sign up children to Messenger Kids, and all contacts need to be approved by a parent before a child can chat.
In the letter, the authors say "social media use by teens is linked to significantly higher rates of depression, and adolescents who spend an hour a day chatting on social networks report less satisfaction with almost every aspect of their lives". Messages don't disappear either, and they can't be deleted, so parents can check up on the app's messaging history at any time.
"I think nowadays kids want to use Facebook". The company has also said there are systems to detect certain kinds of abusive content to keep it off the app, and both kids and parents can report inappropriate content and block s.
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