Facebook Made a Messenger App for Kids as Young as 6 & Parents Are Getting Heated

Facebook Messenger
Facebook

Kids are growing up faster and faster these days, but what is the right age for children to enter the sometimes dangerous world of social media? Well, according to Facebook, it's sooner than we think. The company just rolled out a new app called Messenger Kids that will cater to kiddos as young as 6 years old, and parents are not having it.

  • The app will work similarly to Snapchat, and it allows kids to send videos, texts, and photos to parent-approved contacts.

    In a press release, Facebook boasted that the app will include "a library of kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools lets them decorate content and express their personalities." The company's belief is that kids are already using social media, whether they are trying out Mom and Dad's Instagram or Snapchat, so young kids should have an option created specifically for their age group.

    According to Business Insider, Facebook even conducted a survey of American parents, 81 percent of whom said that kids ages 8–13 were ready for social media. But in a world of harassment and online bullying, can this possibly be true?

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  • Facebook has provided safeguards against the most obvious concerns, like online predators and inappropriate content.

    The company, which prohibits anyone under 13 from having a normal Facebook account, seems to have been very thoughtful of the risks of creating a social networking tool aimed toward kids. BuzzFeed reports that parents must also be friends with the parents of any of their children's contacts. Parents can manage and view all communications from their kids to other people, as well as set time limits for how long kids are allowed to use the app; there is even a tool included that will allow kids to report if someone is being "mean" and will notify the senders' parents of their actions.

  • But parents across the interwebs don't seem thrilled about their kids having their own social networking service.

    "What good can come out of this other than Facebook expanding its user base?" one person asked.

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  • Others were doubtful that using a parents-linked account as a fail-safe was actually going to keep predators away.

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    "Nothing will go wrong, promise," they mocked.

  • One person pointed out that allowing kids to have their own social network could lead to bullying.

    Online bullying is a horrible epidemic that many parents already have to fight once their kids reach middle school, typically -- but some parents are concerned that by allowing younger kids to be able to talk to each other online, they might be increasing their risk for harassment. 

  • And some parents feel all of the above, like this mom whose disenchantment with Messenger Kids is total.

    It's the company's "most irresponsible idea yet," she writes. 

  • Despite parents’ worries, Facebook tells CafeMom the new app won't be used to grow its network, collect data, or even have any advertising.

    Facebook

    "The important thing to note is that we don’t create a profile for them on Facebook or anywhere else,” Facebook rep William Nevius says. "We don’t migrate them to Facebook when they turn 13, we don’t even ask them their age. Information on kids is handled completely separate from other Facebook services. There is a separate privacy policy, a separate Facebook data infrastructure to do things like store messages and other information of the app. That was something we heard from parents ... that they wanted a completely separate stand-alone app."

  • Most importantly, Nevius says, Facebook wants parents to feel like this app keeps them in the know in a way that other apps do not.

    Facebook

    "We understand that communication with kids is unique, so we built system that detect things like nudity and violence, and exploitation," he says. "The biggest concern that we hear over and over again is that they [parents] feel a need for control. Parents feel like they don't know what their kids are doing online and they want a higher level of control over the contacts that they're making. It's a safe, controlled place for families to connect."

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