young children are "simply not ready" for
social media, health experts and children’s advocates
are urging Facebook to discontinue Messenger Kids, its
new messaging app.
app is aimed at younger than 13, which until now has
been the minimum age of users of Facebook and other
social networks. When Facebook introduced it last month,
there was no shortage of concern even though the company
said the app would be ad-free and would serve as a tool
to keep parents connected to their kids.
those concerned parties have sent a letter to Facebook
CEO Mark Zuckerberg, dated Jan. 30.
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 preschoolers to start using a Facebook
product," the letter says.
letter, sent by 19 advocacy groups including Public
Citizen, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, Peace
Educators Allied for Children Everywhere and dozens of
doctors and health experts, cites a study released last
week that showed a link between teen unhappiness and
social media use, and other studies that show social
media’s harmful effects on children’s perception of
body image as well as their sleep habits.
addition, parents who have had to moderate their
children’s screen time know it can be tough —
earlier this month, Apple investors urged the smartphone
giant to take action on kids’ phone addiction — and
the group cites studies about that, too.
continued to defend Messenger Kids, for which it is not
yet sharing user numbers, on Tuesday.
worked to create Messenger Kids with an advisory
committee of parenting and developmental experts, as
well as with families themselves and in partnership with
National PTA," a spokeswoman said. "We
continue to be focused on making Messenger Kids be the
best experience it can be for families." She also
reiterated that the app — which is solely for
messaging and does not contain a News Feed or posts like
Facebook does — is free of ads.
"there’s a clear business rationale," said
James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, a
San Francisco nonprofit dedicated to children’s online
safety, Tuesday. "They’re trying to get kids
said Common Sense Media plans to keep up the public
pressure on Facebook over the app.
who worked with Facebook on the messaging app point out
that some kids are already on social media apps before
they’re 13, and they and Facebook pointed to a survey
that showed some kids start using such apps as early as
8 years old. The app gives parents control and a way to
track who their kids are messaging, they say.
signatories of the letter make sure to mention other
high-profile concerns and controversies Facebook is
dealing with, such as its role in helping spread fake
news and misinformation, its targeting of ads to teens,
and reports that have shown it allows advertisers to
exclude certain ethnicities and ages.
response to some of these scandals, you have personally
vowed to ‘do better.’ " the letter says.
"Doing better is leaving younger children alone and
allowing them to develop without the pressures that come
with social media use."