Child Health Experts Urge Facebook to Scrap 'Messenger Kids' App

Facebook Messenger Kids was launched in the US last month
Facebook Messenger Kids was launched in the US last month

02 February, 2018

"We are writing to urge you to discontinue Messenger Kids, Facebook's first social media app designed specifically for children under the age of 13", said the letter signed by doctors, educators and child health experts and several organisations, chief among which is the US-based Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood. "Messenger Kids will exacerbate this problem, as the anticipation of friends' responses will be a powerful incentive for children to check - and stay on - a phone or tablet", the group says.

"Messenger Kids is not responding to a need - it is creating one", CCFC said. Facebook's also stressed it doesn't collect information from children or display adverts within the app.

Senior lecturer at the Open University and child psychological development specialist, John Oates told TechCrunch that social media use in children is a challenging concept to unpick.

The signatories said children are not prepared for online relationships and lack an understanding of privacy and the appropriateness of sharing texts, pictures and videos. The letter argues that Messenger Kids is likely to be the first platform children encounter, owing to Facebook's massive market reach. Messenger Kids allows children under the age of 13 to connect to other people through text and video chats, either one-on-one or in groups.

The social network said it developed the app with the help of "an advisory committee of parenting and developmental experts", including the "families themselves" and the Parent Teacher Association.

EBay makes Adyen its main payments processing partner
The announcement surprised some investors, who expected the companies to announce an extension to their operating agreement. The average estimate of 15 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was also for earnings of 59 cents per share.

Facebook is banning ads promoting questionable financial products (including cryptocurrencies)
The company added the rule to its advertising policies on Tuesday, in an update to its list of "prohibited content". With an average two billion monthly users, Facebook has been one of the sector's largest markets.

Palace responds to reports Duchess Kate wore real fur in Sweden
AFP/Getty Images The Duke of Cambridge tries out a chair as Catherine and others look on. Victoria was seen asking the Duke and Duchess to turn around for official photographers.

"A growing body of research demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to children and teens", the letter continues.

Some companies have offered parental controls as a way of controlling unauthorized preteen use of their platforms. But talking to family and friends over long distances doesn't require a Messenger Kids account. It has been in the top 40 most popular kids' apps since then.

The campaign against Facebook's Messenger Kids follows another high-profile push against a Silicon Valley giant. But the 11- and 12- year-olds who now use Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook are unlikely to switch to an app that is clearly designed for younger children. In a society increasingly reliant on cellphones, Apple's devices lack sufficient safeguards, the investors said.

"Encouraging kids to move their friendships online will interfere with and displace the face-to-face interactions and play that are crucial for building healthy developmental skills, including the ability to read human emotion, delay gratification, and engage with the physical world", the letter states. The groups and individuals who oppose Messenger Kids are attempting to seize on that momentum and prompt a shift at Facebook and the industry. But App Annie, an app analytics firm, said Messenger Kids has been downloaded about 80,000 times on iOS since it launched on December 4.

The app is designed for children to chat to each other (and their parents) under the watchful eye of strict parental controls.

More news