Experts are urging Facebook to remove its new messaging app designed for kids under 13 years of age.
In a letter sent recently to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the group of experts argue that young children are not ready to have social media accounts or online relationships, Voice of America (VOA) reported Tuesday.
Facebook launched the free Messenger Kids app in December. The social media powerhouse says the app provides a way for children to chat with family members as well as friends that their parents have approved.
The app does not give children their own Facebook or Messenger accounts. Instead, it is connected to a child’s parent’s account.
Facebook has said the app fills “a need for a messaging app that lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want.”
But critics say the app is a way for Facebook to bring in younger users before they choose another popular social media messaging service, such as Snapchat. And they have protested Facebook’s claim that the app fills a need.
Christian child psychiatrist Daniel Amen told CBN News he’s “very concerned” about the new app.
“The more time they spend on their gadgets, the more obese they become, the more depressed they become, the shorter their attention spans,” he said.
The group protesting the App includes mental health professionals, pediatricians, educators and the children’s music singer Raffi Cavoukian.
The letter also criticized Facebook for “targeting younger children.”
In an email to CBN News, Facebook Communications representative Anabel Gould said despite the growing criticism of Facebook Messenger Kids from children’s health-care professionals, “We will not be discontinuing the app,” adding, “We did work with many experts including pediatricians as we developed the app. We had an advisory committee of over a dozen experts we worked with throughout the process.”
App Annie is a company that studies app information. It said Messenger Kids has been downloaded about 80,000 times on Apple’s iOS devices. The app has remained in the top 40 most popular kids’ apps since its December 4 launch. That is not as high as observers had expected.