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Child Advocacy Group: Facebook Should Discontinue Messenger Kids

Child Advocacy Group: Facebook Should Discontinue Messenger Kids

For the longest time, the biggest social media platform in the world was not that keen into allowing kids under 13 years of age use its service. But around a month ago, Facebook had launched a new mobile app called Messenger Kids, and as its name suggests, this app lets children get in touch with other Messenger users who are approved by the kids’ parents.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (a non-profit advocacy group based in the city of Boston in Massachusetts), however, is having none of it. Earlier this week, the organization proceeded to send a letter strongly urging Facebook to reconsider and end the Messenger Kids mobile app. 

According to the advocacy group, young kids are just not ready to have their lives ruled by social media. Even adults get overwhelmed at times with all the complexities of online relationships (not to mention online bullies, fake news, and FOMO) -- children will surely have a more challenging time. 

The letter written by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood was addressed to Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive officer of Facebook himself, and was signed by no less than 19 other groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Parents Across America, and the Badass Teachers Association, along with dozens of experts on child education and psychology. 

In this day and age where electronic gadgets and digital media are everywhere, it is becoming increasingly trickier for parents to figure out how early and how often they should start exposing their kids to the information superhighway, social media, and mobile devices and machines such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and personal computers. There is always that danger that when children are exposed too early and too often, they will grow to be over-dependent on Facebook, YouTube, or Candy Crush. Moreover, there is some concern that smartphone usage is already causing stress among children.

If it is any comfort to Facebook, it is not the only one getting flak from child advocacy groups. Earlier this year, Apple got a letter from a couple of its shareholders. In that letter, the iPhone maker was urged to make a more dedicated effort in helping combat tech or mobile device addiction, especially among children. The tech giant has since responded, promising to introduce new parental controls into its iPhone and iPad devices. Even Google had to deal with child advocacy groups -- about a couple of years ago, it came under fire for reportedly displaying video content that was not suitable for young kids.