Messenger Kids: Social Media App for Children
On Monday, Facebook introduced Messenger Kids, a messaging application designed for children between the ages of 6 and 12. The app was reportedly released in response to parents’ growing concerns about children’s social media environment.
Messenger Kids lets kids text, message, and share videos with their friends. Meanwhile, parents have control of account safety as they decide who can be listed on their children’s contact list.
The app is designed to be interactive and engaging and much like its competitor, Snap, Messenger Kids includes GIFs, stickers and other Snap-like features.
Facebook consulted experts in child development and online safety before launching the app to ensure an optimal online environment. The company also claims that the only data it will collect from Messenger Kids is usernames.
Many child experts have expressed disapproval at the launch. It is generally believed that early access to social media can hinder children’s emotional and mental growth.
“In my research, clinical work and friendships, I’ve never heard parents say that they want their child using social media earlier,” said Jenny Radesky, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Michigan.
Kids are already spending more time on smartphones at earlier ages. Their heavy reliance and early exposure to social media may disrupt their communication skills.
Dr. Radesky also fears that certain messaging content, especially malicious content, could go unmonitored by parents and affect their children negatively.
Child experts believe the real purpose of the app is to help Facebook gain more users. The platform has been losing popularity among youth to apps like Snap and Instagram.
Despite its ad-free and parent-monitored environment, Messenger Kids intentions are questionable. Jim Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media notes: “Why should parents simply trust that Facebook is acting in the best interest of kids?”