Child health advocates are petitioning and calling on Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to scrap Facebook’s Messenger Kids app, The Guardian reports.
The campaigners have also started a petition, which has gathered 21,000 signatures so far. They are warning about the power of social media, the toll it can take on children and adolescents, urging Mark Zuckerberg to use his influence and reach to promote the well-being of children around the world, instead of “targeting” them.
“Please do not target kids. Research shows that excessive social media use is already harming adolescents and teens. Younger children are even less equipped to deal with the interpersonal challenges and addictive power of social media. Kids need time and space to experience the physical world and develop healthy face-to-face relationships.”
As the Inquisitr reported, Facebook launched Messenger Kids in December last year. A chat app for kids under 13, Messenger Kids is a free app, an enhanced, kid-friendly version of Facebook’s Messenger. It is meant to be a combination of child-friendly features and parental control.
Facebook, which has developed the app in cooperation with experts and organizations such as National PTA and Blue Star Families, launched the app to fill a market hole and, TechCrunch noted, eliminate child predator threats common on platforms such as Snapchat.
Messenger Kids, which Facebook has not monetized directly, will turn children’s profiles into full-blown Facebook accounts, once they turn 13.
Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC) and MomsRising are spearheading the anti-Messenger movement, but they are not alone. Among the 21,000 signatories are educators and health professionals. One of them, Micah Resnick, a pediatrician from New York, shared his professional opinion with The Guardian.
The harm social media inflicts upon children is, Resnick said, very real and what social media does is, it replaces a child’s self-worth with likes and shares, creating the illusion of “missing out,” in a child’s fragile and underdeveloped mind.
Other experts, like Jamie Greene, a psychologist from Mount Kisco in New York, agree on how damaging social media is.
“Social media is already damaging the emotional/social growth of children. Do not lower the age to younger children, who are already more impressionable, and do not have the cognitive maturity to differentiate social messages,” Greene said.
This is not the first time health experts and child development have called on Facebook to scrap the Messenger Kids. As CNN reported in January this year, more than a dozen organizations and about 100 health experts sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, asking him to shut down the app.
In a statement supplied to The Guardian, a Facebook spokesperson said that the company appreciates the feedback, as well as the initiative, but they did not in any way indicate that Mark Zuckerberg’s company would pull the plug on the app.