Health Experts Say Facebook’s Messenger Kids App Should be Shut Down

Child development advocates are calling on Facebook to discontinue its new Messenger Kids app, which is targeted at 6 to 12 year olds.

On Tuesday, more than a dozen organizations and about 100 health experts sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying the new chat app will likely damage a child’s healthy development.

The effort is led by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), an advocacy organization working to combat exploitative marketing to children. Other groups who signed the letter include the ACLU of Massachusetts, Media Education Foundation, Defending the Early Years and Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

“Raising children in our new digital age is difficult enough,” the letter said. “We ask that you do not use Facebook’s enormous reach and influence to make it even harder.”

The experts argue that younger children are not ready to have social media accounts.

“They are not old enough to navigate the complexities of online relationships, which often lead to misunderstandings and conflicts even among more mature users,” according to the letter.

In addition, the organizations said the demographic doesn’t have a fully developed understanding of privacy, such as what content is appropriate to share with friends or who has access to their conversations, photos and videos.

In December, Facebook unveiled Messenger Kids, which lets young users talk to their friends and make video calls. Facebook’s policy still requires users to be at least 13 to sign up for the main site.

Facebook said it took steps to address concerns, such as working with a committee of about a dozen experts and more than 250 online safety organizations to develop the app. It also met with parents across the U.S. to hear the major concerns about their kids using technology.

The company also put in safeguards for cyberbullying, such as the ability to flag inappropriate content and block users. The app does not include apps.

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SOURCE: CNN, Kaya Yurieff