The ongoing concerns about underaged children’s access and use of technology, especially social media just took a new twist. This is because, a coalition of experts has called for the scraping of Facebook Messenger For Kids launched in December 2017.
In a press statement jointly signed by about 100 child health advocates, the call insists Facebook Messenger app will undermine children’s healthy development.
In a letter written and organized by the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), it cited a growing body of research linking adolescent social media use with depression, poor sleep habits, and unhealthy body image. It also points out that Facebook Messenger Kids will make parents’ job more challenging: “Almost half of parents say that regulating their child’s screen time is a constant battle. 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.”
Facebook had earlier said that The new Messenger app will not entertain ads, so that children don’t get exposed to advertisements that aren’t age-appropriate. In response to the petition, Facebook was defensive saying, “Since we launched in December we’ve heard from parents around the country that Messenger Kids has helped them stay in touch with their children and has enabled their children to stay in touch with family members near and far.
You would recall that Tim Cook had earlier aired his opinion on the use of technology and social media by children, calling for restrictions and boundaries. He said, “I don’t believe in overuse [of technology]. I’m not a person that says we’ve achieved success if you’re using it all the time. I don’t subscribe to that at all”. Furthermore, he said “I don’t have a kid, but I have a nephew that I put some boundaries on, there are some things that I won’t allow. I don’t want them on a social network”.
Although Facebook Messenger for Kids does not require users to be 13 years old and above, unlike the regular Facebook and Instagram app, in addition to that it does not require users to have their own Facebook account and parents get to have total control over the contact list of their kids, some expert still believe exposing children to social media would have adverse effects on child health. Jenny Radesky, MD, a developmental behavior pediatrician and media researcher at the University of Michigan said, “At that age, children are not ready to use social media on their own. “Developmentally, it’s hard for 6- to 12- year- olds to grasp concepts like privacy and who is using their data. They’re just starting to build awareness about their identity, their role in relationships, and morality. Combine that immaturity with the problematic interactions that often happen on social media, and it could be really messy.”
Among other leading experts and advocates who signed the letter to Facebook are: Tristan Harris, former Design Ethicist at Google and co-founder of Time Well Spent; Jean Twenge, PhD, author of iGen; and the organizations Common Sense Media and Public Citizen.
No doubt, technology brought lots of positive improvement to mankind, we can’t deny the fact that its misuse, especially among underage children can bring about much negative outcomes. Will Facebook give up Messenger Kid? Well, time will tell.
Facebook is an online social networking service headquartered in Menlo Park, California, in the United States. Its website was launched on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg with his Harvard College roommates and fellow students Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. The founders had initially limited the website’s membership to Harvard students, but later expanded it to colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University. It gradually added support for students at various other universities and later to high-school students. Its name comes from the face book directories often given to American university students.
Facebook Messenger is an instant messaging service and software application which provides text and voice communication. Integrated with Facebook’s web-based Chat feature, Messenger lets Facebook users chat with friends both on mobile and on the main website.