Experts ask Facebook to get rid of its Messenger Kids app

Experts ask Facebook to get rid of its Messenger Kids app

Child advocates are urging Mark Zuckerberg to abort Messenger Kids, Facebook's messaging app designed for children younger than the 13-year-old minimum age the company requires for its other products.

More than 110 doctors, educators and child health advocates have signed an open letter led by the US-based Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood that warns Zuckerberg of the danger that social media can pose for young people, The Guardian reports.

Despite its attempts to quell parents' and health professionals' concerns about kids online, Facebook continues to face heavy backlash to its Messenger Kids network.

The coalition is asking Facebook to shutter the app rather than improve it because there's no need for children under age 12 to be on social media.

Experts are concerned about the effects that smartphones and social media apps have on people's physical and mental health. The company claims it provides a "safe" way for kids to chat online.

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is once again under fire from consumer watchdog groups, this time over its Messenger Kids app.

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In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday, 19 groups - including the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, ACLU of MA, and Parents Across America - called the company's move to launch the app "irresponsible", especially in light of research indicating that excessive use of social media is detrimental to children and teens.

The letter is signed by a range of child welfare groups, chief among them the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Parents must set up a child's Messenger Kids account and approve with whom they can communicate (parents must be friends on Facebook to do so). To get there, click on "More" on the bottom right corner in your main Facebook app, and click "Messenger Kids" in the Explore section.

Twenge, whose work was also cited in the public letter to Apple, says it's a good first step that Messenger Kids doesn't have ads and that parents can limit their kid's list.

"At a time when there is mounting concern about how social media use affects adolescents' wellbeing, it is particularly irresponsible to encourage children as young as preschoolers to start using a Facebook product". Its aim is to introduce chat and video features to a younger group of users and give parents the ability to monitor who their kids interact with online. The letter explains pre-teens are "simply not ready" for social media.

In case you don't follow Facebook closely, then you're probably not aware of the company's "Hard Questions" - here's a handy link.

In response, Facebook's global head of safety, Antigone Davis, said in a statement to the Washington Post, "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". The company has also said there are systems to detect certain kinds of abusive content to keep it off the app, and both kids and parents can report inappropriate content and block s. When the kids version launched, Marcus told TechCrunch that Facebook hired a special team to build creative tools for kids, like fidget spinner and dinosaur augmented reality masks, as well as crayon-style stickers. "Call them on FaceTime", Twenge says.

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