You might have seen or heard of the Messenger Kids app. It was launched in December on iOS, and last week it was made available for Android too.
Messenger Kids is designed for kids from six to 12 (ages six to 13) as a way to safely communicate with friends and family. Through the app, they can text or video chat, plus there are cool elements they can use such as GIFs, emojis, frames and masks. Kids don’t need a Facebook account to use it – only their parents do. Facebook has said that it has worked hard to ensure everything about Messenger Kids is age-appropriate and focused on privacy. They have also made assurances that they’re not using a child’s Messenger Kids data for advertising purposes.
For parents, there is a reasonable amount of control. They can monitor who their children connect with, and can let them add or delete contacts. The app sends them notifications if their children report or block anyone they’ve been chatting with.
It might sound good, but there has been a call from parents who are concerned that their kids are being exposed to social media from too young, and are at risk of overusing tech. Some child development experts have already called on Facebook to shut down the app, saying that it hinders healthy childhood development.
I hear the concern, and I’m also aware of how easy it is to get so caught up in social media (I only need to look at my own habits, for example). That said, isn’t it largely up to parent to monitor their kids’ usage, instil rules, and set their own example by being on social media for a reasonable amount of time? Also, no one is forcing kids and their parents to opt into Messenger, right?