Too young. Too much. Too soon. That seems to be the theme behind a request by child advocates to have Facebook shut down its Messenger app for kids. The newly released app is designed to be used by kids between the ages of 6 and 12 years old.
More than 100 child development experts and advocates are urging Facebook to end its Messenger Kids app amid worries over the repercussions of encouraging elementary school children to use social media.
In a letter sent Tuesday to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the groups called on Facebook to end the app, noting that it will likely be “the first social media platform widely used by elementary school children.” The letter, organized by the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, points to research showing that “excessive use of digital devices and social media” can harm children and teens.
According to TechCrunch.com, “Facebook described Messenger Kids as an “easier and safer way” for kids to video chat and message with family and friends “when they can’t be together in person” — and said the product had been “co-developed with parents, kids and experts”.
In response, Facebook’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis, said in a statement, “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.” Facebook stressed that Messenger Kids contains no advertising and said that parents who use the app say it helps them stay in touch with their children during work hours or when they are away.
However, ABC News pointed out, “A recent study released last week by San Diego University showed that increased use of smartphones and social media can cause a greater sense of unhappiness among teenagers. The research showed that children who spend more than two hours a day on their digital devices, had disproportionate feelings of unhappiness among compared to children who spent more time doing non-screen activities.”
The experts argue that younger children are not ready to have social media accounts.
“They are not old enough to navigate the complexities of online relationships, which often lead to misunderstandings and conflicts even among more mature users,” according to the letter.
Harmless and a way to help kids stay connected to family or a way to hook children into social media at an even younger age? We’d love to hear what you think about this growing debate. Let us know. As always, we are hoping to generate meaningful conversations around the health issues making headlines. Because we believe interacting with our partners will help us take another step in our long-term goal to one day make Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!