Local experts urge caution over Facebook's new Messenger Kids app

Herbert Rhodes
December 7, 2017

Parents are able to monitor a child's activity on the app, which looks similar to the regular Facebook Messenger app.

Lavallee, who is the content strategist at the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard University, said about the Messenger Kids a "useful tool" that "makes parents the gatekeepers".

If you're interested in testing it out, Messenger Kids is now available for Apple products in the USA only. Facebook is including "kid-appropriate masks, frames, stickers, and GIFs [to] spark conversation and laughter".

"After talking to thousands of parents, associations like National PTA, and parenting experts in the United States, we found that there's a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want", Loren Cheng, product management director for the new app, explained in an announcement on Facebook's website.

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"It's hard for them to grasp concepts like privacy, who is using their data, or insight into how they might be manipulated through persuasive design - and they are really just starting to build awareness about their identity, role in relationships, and morality", she said in an e-mail.

The company said it had spent months talking to parenting groups, child behavioural experts and safety organisations to aid in developing the app, as well as thousands of hours interviewing families on the ways members communicated with one another. Facebook's move has already been criticized in some countries. "Parents want to know they're in control". Davis said that if a parent decides to delete a child's account, Facebook will also delete any data from its own servers. Facebook's safeguards have made it more hard for strangers to contact a child, they said. He said the company would not automatically convert children's accounts to adult accounts when they turned 13.

Facebook requires that children use their first and last name and a picture of themselves for the app. This means that you won't get unknown people trying to add you on Facebook. Facebook plans to release Android and Amazon versions next year.

This is why Facebook as well many other social media companies forbid and prohibited the younger kids from joining. A recent study from Common Sense Media found that parents are more skeptical of the benefits of social media for their children then they are of smartphones or even wearable devices.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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