Child Health Experts Urge Facebook to Withdraw Messenger Kids

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Warning of the dangers of social media for kids, more than 100 child health experts have urged Facebook to halt Messenger Kids, a video calling and messaging app designed for the under 13s. In an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the experts on Tuesday said that the “younger children are simply not ready to have social media accounts”.

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“We are writing to urge you to discontinue Messenger Kids, Facebook’s first social media app designed specifically for children under the age of 13,” said the letter signed by doctors, educators and child health experts and several organisations, chief among which is the US-based Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood. “At a time when there is mounting concern about how social media use affects adolescents’ well being, it is particularly irresponsible to encourage children as young as pre-schoolers to start using a Facebook product,” the authors wrote.

The Messenger Kids app was launched in December, 2017, the Guardian reported. According to Facebook, the app was designed to help kids connect with close friends and family from their tablet or smartphone. With this app, kids can only connect with parent-approved contacts. The app has no advertising and Facebook says that it will not use the wealth of data it collects from the new app for marketing purposes.

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But the experts noted in the letter that the app’s overall impact on families and society is likely to be negative, normalising social media use among young children and creating peer pressure for kids to sign up for their first account. They cited different research to drive home the point that social media use may adversely affect the well being of children.

The authors of the letter urged the Facebook CEO to leave the younger children alone so that they can develop without the pressures that come with social media use.
“We continue to be focused on making Messenger Kids be the best experience it can be for families. We have been very clear that there is no advertising in Messenger Kids,” a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying by the Guardian.

British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in December warned the social media giant to stay away from his children. “Facebook told me they would come back with ideas to PREVENT underage use of their product, but instead they are actively targeting younger children. Stay away from my kids please Facebook and act responsibly!” Hunt had posted on Twitter.

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