A social media firestorm has erupted to protest the introduction of Facebook’s new Messenger Kids App. The company states that the app, designed for children ages 6 to 12, allows them to connect with family and friends from their tablet or smartphone. Similar to Snapchat, kids can create their own videos and decorate photos. The message however does not disappear and parents can approve the contact list.
Nineteen organizations and almost 100 health experts, including psychiatrists, psychologists, pediatricians and professors, were not convinced of the need for, nor the safety of this new social media app, pointing out the risks to childhood development. Their letter, organized by the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC), points out that Messenger Kids would likely be most children’s first social app and widely used by elementary students. They highlight that excessive social media is already harming teens. The letter argues that the downsides of the children’s app would be broad and affect both individuals and society at large. The authors note:
- Younger children are not psychologically ready to have social media and navigate complex online relationships
- Younger children do not understand the concept of privacy
- Studies show that with more social media use by teens, the more unhappy they are
- Digital device use will increase and direct face to face communication will decrease
- Development of healthy human relationships including delayed gratification is harmed
- It will normalize social media use in young children
- It will create peer pressure stress in young children
- Facebook is not responding to a need but creating one and targeting young children
Dear Mark Zuckerberg: Please Discontinue Messenger
In a separate letter , Gloria DeGaetano, Founder and Director of Parent Coaching Institute, places her concerns more bluntly on the table. She asks that CEO Mark Zuckerberg read the research presented carefully and ponder the long term consequences of this app. She questions not only the nature of the advocacy groups used to create Messenger Kids but also if an industry billionaire tech culture is now superseding a healthy nurturing human culture. DeGaetano is concerned that these types of apps for younger children normalize a “trans-human” agenda with a man-machine merger and without thoughtful knowledge of its perils, including the loss of human identity. She implores Facebook to discontinue Messenger Kids app for the best interests of children and society, both present and future.
News Stories Digital Addiction and Distraction
- Turn Off Messenger Kids, Health Experts Plead to Facebook. Facebook introduced Messenger Kids, for children as young as 6, last month. Jan 30, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/30/technology/messenger-kids-facebook-letter.
- Letter to Mark Zuckerberg: “Dear Mark: Please post “Facebook discontinues messenger kids”. Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood. Feb 16, 2018. http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/blog/dear-mark-zuckerberg-post-“facebook-discontinues-messenger-kids
- Early Facebook and Google employees form coalition to fight what they built. New York Times. Feb 5, 2018. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/04/early-facebook-and-google-employees-form-coalition-to-fight-what-they-built.html
- Stanford students call on public to unplug. At Apple store protest, student group aims to raise awareness of device addiction. Palo Alto Online. March 4, 2018. https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2018/03/04/stanford-students-call-on-public-to-unplug-at-apple-store
- Kids don’t need a cellphone; they need a digital diet.LA Times. Jan 2, 2018. http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-riley-digital-device-diet-20170102-story.html
- The Impact of Mobile Technology on our Children. Complex impacts on young mobile technology users. News Center, University of Albany. Oct 17, 2017. https://www.albany.edu/news/82329.php
- Special Section: Contemporary Mobile Technology and Child and Adolescent Development. Child Development. January/February 2018. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cdev.2018.89.issue-1/issuetoc
- Apple Investors Warn iPhones and Other Technology May Be Hurting Children. New York Times. Jan 8, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/08/business/apple-investors-children.html
See also MDSafeTech.org page on TECHNOLOGY ADDICTION