Facebook boss urged to pull Messenger Kids app
Child health and development experts are urging Mark Zuckerberg to scrap Facebook's new messaging app for children.
More than 110 doctors, educators and child health advocates have signed an open letter, authored by Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), warning that "younger children are simply not ready to have social media accounts".
Launched in December 2017, Messenger Kids is a new advertising-free Facebook app targeted at six-to-12-year olds. The social media giant said its app was designed with online safety experts and requires parental approval before use.
"Messenger Kids will likely be the first social media platform widely used by elementary school children," the open letter stated.
"But a growing body of research demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to children and teens, making it very likely this new app will undermine children’s healthy development."
The letter's authors warned that younger children are not ready to have social media accounts nor are they old enough to navigate the complexities of online relationships, which "often lead to misunderstandings and conflicts even among more mature users".
"They also do not have a fully developed understanding of privacy, including what's appropriate to share with others and who has access to their conversations, pictures and videos," they added.
"At a time when there is mounting concern about how social media use affects adolescents' wellbeing, it is particularly irresponsible to encourage children as young as pre-schoolers to start using a Facebook product."
Upon announcing the launch of Messenger Kids, Facebook said it will not sell adverts on the app or use the data it collects for marketing purposes.
It has also put controls in place to help mitigate cyber bullying.
But despite these safeguards, the CFCC argues 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".
The Messenger Kids app is not yet available in the UK.