Facebook Urged by Health Experts to Shutter Messenger Kids

Advocates of child development are urging Facebook to stop its new app Messenger Kids, which the social media giant targets children between the ages of 6 and 12.

Over one dozen organizations as well as 100 health experts on Tuesday sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg the CEO of Facebook saying the company’s new chat app would likely damage the healthy development of a child.

The effort is being led by CCFC or Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, which is an advocacy group working to help combat the exploitative marketing focused on children. Other organizations who signed this letter included Media Education Foundation, the Massachusetts ACLU, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and Defending the Early Years.

The letter said that raising children in today digital age is already difficult, and we are asking you not to use the enormous influence and reach of Facebook to make it even more difficult.

Experts argue younger children are not prepared to have accounts on social media. The letter says the children are not old enough to be able to navigate all the complexities online, which often can lead to conflicts and misunderstandings even amongst users that are more mature.

In addition, the groups signing the letter said the demographics do not have a fully developed understanding when it comes to privacy, such as content that is appropriate versus inappropriate to share with friends or those with access to the online conversations, videos and photos.

Facebook last December unveiled its Messenger Kids app, which allows younger users to chat to friends and to make video calls. The policy of Facebook still requires the users to be a minimum of 13 to sign up on its main site.

Facebook said it has taken the steps necessary to address concerns by working with a committee that includes dozens of health experts and over 250 online safety groups to develop its app. It added that is met with parents in areas across the entire U.S. to hear what major concerns they had about their children using technology.

Facebook also has put safeguards in place for cyberbullying like the ability to flag content that is inappropriate and to block users. The app does not have any ads.

However, those steps were not sufficient enough to quiet the fears of experts.

Facebook has said it is planning to add additional parental controls including tools that prevent children from using the new app during their bedtime or while they are doing their homework.