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Why Facebook Should Rethink Messenger Kids

Facebook recently introduced a new messaging app for children to connect easier with parents and close friends in what they allege is a safer and more controlled messaging environment. The app, called Messenger Kids, allows children and youth to chat with one another, send photos, and add a variety of filters and personal drawings to messages and images. While the idea may sound great in theory – maybe even appropriate for today’s technological age – experts are calling on Facebook to shut down the app, citing data that argues that apps like Messenger Kids can halt children’s healthy interpersonal development skills.

Facebook Should Rethink Its Messaging Service

As reported by an article in The New York Times, experts appear to be in agreement about the potentially negative consequences of allowing such young children access to a messaging system like Messenger Kids. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood argues that young children are just learning about communication, and don’t fully understand nuances of communication or its privacy issues. As such, the organization believes that Messenger Kids is an app that “preys on a vulnerable group developmentally unprepared to be on the social network.”

And it’s not just about development and learning of social skills. Research also shows that smartphones and social media, and their ubiquitous and pervasive use, have been linked to a surge in the rates of depression amongst young persons, which means that parents may want to rethink their child’s access to apps and social media platforms until they are mature enough to handle nuanced communication and how to respond to negative feedback.

Facebook Pushes Back

Facebook has claimed that the messaging app was designed to provide a safe space for kids to communicate and was intended to engage parents in their children’s social media usage. In fact, compared to other messaging apps, Messenger Kids is supposed to be superior, in that it has no ads to target children and requires parents to activate the app. Further, there is no news feed or “like” feature, which are two of the elements that experts have linked with anxiety amongst young persons.

Tips for Parents

Whether or not you, as a parent of a young child or teenager, allow your child to use social media and other apps like Messenger Kids, is of course completely your decision. However, as more research is conducted, it’s becoming clear that social media can be an addictive and dangerous form of entertainment. It can result in a loss of connections between family and friends and can even interrupt peak brain development. Further, spending time outdoors – an activity that is often shunned for screen time – is absolutely critical for children, with the Child Mind Institute explaining that time and play in nature builds confidence, promotes movement and imagination, encourages creativity, offers stimulation, teaches responsibility, engenders critical thinking, and reduces stress and fatigue.

Be Wary of Apps Like Messenger Kids

As a parent, your parenting style and your decisions regarding your child are yours entirely. At the law offices of Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C., we want to remind you to be wary of apps like Messenger Kids, which may be dangerous for the developing mind.

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