So Mark Zuckerberg and team thought it is a good idea to give kids around the world, the ability to stay connected via Facebook. As you might already know, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 13 to sign up for Facebook.
That means parents and older siblings cannot talk to little Timmy at home until he is 13 and over. A big inconvenience don’t you think? I mean Facebook, more so its Messenger app has become a common communication platform. You sent texts, share pictures, videos, make voice and video calls to your family and friends. Except if they are less than 13 years old.
Well, engineers over at Facebook sat down with a committee made up of child health experts and parents to brainstorm on a version of Messenger suitable for kids. One that will allow their parent or guardian create the account and control exactly who their kids can contact. The app is designed for kids aged between six to 12.
Facebook also added some security measures by only availing kids-friendly videos and GIF tools for the Messenger kids. The app also comes with no support for ads, in-app purchases, and does not require the child to use their real name, as it’s the case with the original Facebook app.
Child advocacy group says Messenger Kids is a no-no
For instance, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood penned an open letter to Zuckerberg warning the Messenger Kids is “harmful to children and teens,” and could “undermine children’s healthy development.” The letter further reads:
“Younger children are simply not ready to have social media accounts. They also do not have a fully developed understanding of privacy, including what’s appropriate to share with others and who has access to their conversations, pictures, and videos.
At a time when there is mounting concern about how social media use affects adolescents’ well-being, it is particularly irresponsible to encourage children as young as preschoolers to start using a Facebook product.”
Following this letter, Facebook’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis came out defending the app saying the social network worked with parents, health experts, and the U.S. National PTA. It appears on the issue of PTA, Davis was being economical with the truth as the original Facebook blog post during the announcement of the app, the social network categorically stated that the PTA does not endorse the product.
But after it is all said and done, the stats show that Messenger Kids has already garnered 45,000 downloads since its launch in December, and registers 20,000 active users daily.