Facebook Messenger Kids app met with backlash from child health experts

Last December, Facebook announced a Messenger for Kids, app, a way to get young children to start using Facebook early, albeit with supervision from their parents enabled by Facebook’s tools.

“In addition to our research with thousands of parents, we’ve engaged with over a dozen expert advisors in the areas of child development, online safety and children’s media and technology who’ve helped inform our approach to building our first app for kids,” Facebook’s Loren Cheng wrote then, describing the thought process that went into building the app.

The idea has been panned by other child health experts, which called for the firm to halt the rollout of this app in an open letter (reported via the BBC).

The letter notes that research has proven that excessive use of social media damages children and teens, leading to increased use of depression ad phone addiction among minors.

The letter criticises Facebook’s idea that children who have jumped on Social Media to avoid parental eyes will ostensibly jump onto a platform regulated by said parents. Facebook isn’t addressing those needs, it is “creating one.”

The open letter concludes thus:

Doing better is leaving younger children alone and allowing them to develop without the pressures that come with social media use. Raising children in our new digital age is difficult
enough. We ask that you do not use Facebook’s enormous reach and influence to make it even harder. Please make a strong statement that Facebook is committed to the wellbeing of children
and society by pulling the plug on Messenger Kids

In response to this, Facebook told the BBC that “Since [they ]launched in December we’ve heard from parents around the country that Messenger Kids has helped them stay in touch with their children and has enabled their children to stay in touch with family members near and far.”

Of course, as Facebook’s Messenger for Kids necessarily resides on a “smartphone”, one has to wonder if the “phone” part of that equation could not fulfil that purpose without the additional risks.