Earlier this year I wrote about the recently released Facebook Messenger for Kids. We did not download it for our daughter but, I’ll admit, it didn’t seem like an entirely bad idea for children in the 6-13 age group. Some kids are determined to communicate digitally no matter what, so is it a tiny bit better if they have a safe way to do it? I was curious to see where it would land among the critics since it is clear that Facebook tried to think through all the pitfalls of the app before it was released.
As it turns out, Facebook Messenger for Kids has faced a lot more criticism than even I expected. No sooner did we publish the article on this blog than backlash by health experts gained momentum in the national media. In a letter written by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood experts cited the growing body of evidence that suggests the use of digital devices will undermine a child’s healthy development. They also noted the recent study which showed the direct correlation between smartphone use and unhappiness in teens.
Facebook’s current stance is that it will not shutdown the app in lieu of plenty of positive feedback it has received from customers. The company was also quick to note that they conducted research and consulted experts before the app was released. Not all parents are entirely against the app, either. Writer Sarah Perez noted her children have the app since, as far as she can see, this one is the safest of all of them out there. Most messaging apps seem to turn a blind eye toward the safety of children and at least Facebook is paying attention to it. If your child is already plugged in, is this app an opportunity to teach them about safe messaging habits since it can be regulated to family and close friends only?
There is no doubt that the fallout will continue and we will follow this story as it unfolds. Facebook may have been the first company to build a messaging app expressly for young children with an eye toward safety, and I have reason to expect there will be more apps to follow. At Latch Mobile we remain committed to alerting parents to any questionable behavior that takes place on your child’s phone, no matter what app they are using.