A battle is brewing between groups of child advocates, medical experts and Facebook over their Messenger Kids app.
The 19 groups say in a open letter to Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg , that the app could pose health and developmental risks to children 13 and under. They want to see the app removed.
According to an article in the Washington Post, the groups assert that children are not prepared for online relationships and don't have an understanding of privacy and the appropriateness of sharing texts, pictures and videos
Facebook’s Messenger Kids app is designed for kids 13 and under. According to Facebook’s website, the app makes “it easier for kids to safely video chat and message with family and friends when they can’t be together in person.” Facebook says that parents have control over the app’s functions and contacts.
The letter, organized by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said research suggests a link between social media use and higher rates of depression among teens, and said it's irresponsible to expose preschool children to the Messenger Kids app.
Also included in the letter are concerns that increasing children's screen time could interfere with important development skills such as interacting with the physical world, delaying gratification and reading other people's emotions, the Post reported.
Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, believes that children don’t need their own social media account.
"We are at a pivotal moment, and the tech companies need to decide if they are going to act in a way that is more ethical and more responsive to the needs of children and families, or are they gong to continue to pursue profits at the expense of children's well-being?"
Antigone Davis, Facebook's global head of safety, responded in a statement to the Post that, "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. We continue to be focused on making Messenger Kids the best experience it can be for families."
Recent studies have suggested that social media outlets take kids away from activities that are more valuable to their mental and physical health such as sports, exercise and face-to-face interaction with family and friends.
This generation of children will never know a time when apps didn’t exist. Many parents are concerned that their teens already spend too much time worrying about and interacting on social media and they’re not quite sure that they want their younger children starting down that road so early.