Facebook announced they are launching a Messenger app for children as young as 6 years old.
The app, Messenger for Kids, will allow parents to have control over who their child chats or video calls with, as the app will be a part of the parents’ own Facebook account. Kids can only chat with people who are Facebook friends with their parents, meaning the parent must be friends with the other parents. Then, children can text chat or video message the contacts, using child-friendly emoji, gifs and Snapchat-like filters and masks.
Parents receive notifications about requests and activity through their own Facebook app, as the child does not receive or create their own Facebook account. That is still restricted to children age 13 and up.
Messenger for Kids launched Monday and is only available through the Apple App Store, with Amazon and Google Play appearing “in the coming months,” the Facebook press release said.
Facebook said the app will not feature in-app purchases or ads nor will the child’s information be used for ads. Messages in the app can’t disappear or be hidden either, so parents can still keep tabs on what’s being said to their children.
Children who feel they are being bullied can report content or contacts. Parents are then notified through messenger and Facebook will remove content or kids who repeatedly violate the company’s Community Standards.
“Many of us at Facebook are parents, and naturally we’re thinking about technology’s role in the lives of children and families,” Antigone Davis, Facebook’s Public Policy Director and Global Head of Safety, wrote in an article in Facebook’s Newsroom addressing the new Messenger app.
Davis said the Facebook team worked with child development experts, educators and parents to make sure the app was truly kid-friendly because according to National PTA research of parents with kids under 13, 81% of them said their children started using social media between 8 and 13.
Children as young as 6 will be able to use Facebook Messenger for Kids to communicate with family and friends who are far away.
But not everyone is so sure this is a good move. Melanie Hempe, of Families Managing Media, a company dedicated to helping families instill good technology and social media habits, told the Daily News that kids as young as 6 should not be using social media.
“Kids as young as 10 years old easily get 300 text messages a day from social media interactions; this is too stressful. A child does not have the cognitive maturity or impulse control to properly manage their time and use on digital platforms,” Hempe said.
She said research has shown that social media can be a detriment to children’s brain, emotional and physical development.
“In today’s world of highly anxious kids, social media is the last place kids should be. They need to be outside, interacting with their friends (and family) in person and learning how to have real conversation and social skills,” Hempe said.
Hempe also said that the parental supervision aspect would only work in a perfect world.
“Do parents want to spend all their time monitoring their kids’ texts and social media,” she asked. “It becomes a full-time job, and who has time for that?”