In Canada and Peru, Facebook decided to roll out ‘Messenger Kids’, a controversial chat app for children under 13. As you can imagine, the app has been widely criticised by advocacy groups that claim it could be harmful to young teens and children. It will also be available in the two countries in Spanish and French for the first time.
Messenger Kids does allow parents to manage their child’s profile through their own Facebook account and allows the parent to control who the child can have contact with. It also has no ads or in-app purchases so no additional expenses can be bought and the child can’t wander on to different advertised pages. Another safety feature is that the app doesn’t require the child to use their real name. The app allows kids to video and text chat while offering stickers, masks and filters all child-appropriate to decorate their content.
A new update to the app that has been available since December, means that the account can be managed by two parents instead of only one. The app shows a “pledge” for families to see when parents set up the account for their child. It has four points: “Be Kind, Be Respectful, Be Safe and Have Fun.” The pledge also aims to guide principles between the parents and their children that encourage them to use Messenger Kids responsibly. It is supposed to encourage and remind the parents to have a discussion with their child about safety online and how to use the app before access is handed over to them.
Although Facebook says the app complies with the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), there has been accumulating pressure from child development experts, educators, parents and health advocacy groups all wanting Facebook to shut down the app. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood sent an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, sharing their concerns and suggesting “young children are simply not ready to have social media accounts.” and that they are “not old enough to navigate the complexities of online relationships.”
Messenger Kids appears to follow all the correct protocols and there are definitely good uses of it such as the child being able to chat with family members even though many kids already have mobile phones so they can already do this. However the app aims to be safer and with the lack of adverts or the ability to explore elsewhere online or through Facebook within the app it appears to be much safer for the child to use, especially as it is all under the supervision of their parents.
Would you let your child use an app like this if it was under your supervision and control? Let us know in the comments!
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Director of HeartCMS.com and author of UK's bestselling online marketing book 'The Google Checklist'. Amen loves to help small to medium size businesses get more online exposure. Amen started his online marketing journey back in 2006 and now runs his own award winning marketing agency.
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