Have you heard that Facebook is now targeting our kids with their newest app? Yes, they want entire families to use their platform as a primary source of communication.
As of September 2017, Facebook was the first social network to surpass 1 billion registered accounts and currently purports that 2.06 billion users are actively using the platform monthly (Most famous social network sites worldwide as of September 2017).
At first glance, Messenger Kids sounds intriguing; especially, if you have family members who live long distances away and you want your children to be able to connect with them regularly. However, I’m sure us parents have lots of questions before we download the app.
IS THE MESSENGER KIDS APP SAFE?
Technically, Facebook has challenged every mom and dad’s fears to make the app a safe experience for their children. The app targets kids ages 9-12 who aren’t old enough for a regular Facebook account. While there are safeguards in place where parents would be able to fully control the app for their kids; you can’t rely on the safeguards alone.
So if your child has a mobile device and you’re Okay with him or her using Facebook Messenger Kids App then you can feel confident knowing that the following safety measures are in place:
- Parents have the ability to approve or block contacts
- The app contains no Ads
- There are also no in-app purchases
- Kid’s aren’t searchable
- Messages sent can’t be erased
- Kids can report inappropriate content and users.
WHY WOULD KIDS EVEN WANT TO USE IT?
When I worked at a high school, the teens who were ages 13-18, weren’t interested in Facebook. They much rather communicate with What’s App or Snapchat. So, I can see why Facebook would try to get the younger generation hooked early. This new Messenger Kids App is more similar to having a SnapChat profile than a regular Facebook account.
As time progresses, research shows that younger and younger kids are given their own cellular devices. In fact, My own daughter received her first phone at 8 years old for medical reasons. Reports also show that “children are getting their first smartphones around age 10, according to the research firm Influence Central, down from age 12 in 2012″ (Chen). Although many parents say that they are giving their kids phones for emergencies at school, studies also suggest that kids are using these devices to text and communicate with their peers.
The Messenger Kids App has added some super cool features that kids would love to play with for example:
Kid-appropriate masks, frames, stickers and GIFs spark conversation and laughter. With the feature-filled camera, kids can create fun videos and decorate photos to share moments with loved ones.
When my daughters heard about the app, they immediately wanted it.
ARE KIDS READY FOR THIS RESPONSIBILITY?
Do you think kids really need to start making online profiles this early in their lives? I don’t think so. The internet wasn’t around when I was a kid so I can’t say definitely that it would be harmful, but I do know that adults have already had to pay consequences for their social media habits, and I would hate for any information my kids did online to follow them into adulthood.
Hear me out, I’m a parent who uses social media on a regular basis. I could even say that it’s a regular part of my personal livelihood. As a result, of using social media and seeing how many adults can’t police themselves or trolls they come across, I’m not so sure I would be quick to sign my kid up and approve Facebook’s Messenger Kids App.
Frankly, kids are already very fragile and cannot take the barrage of onlookers in their lives 24/7; in fact, social media can be an overwhelming experience for adults. Kids are also fickle, one minute they are friends the next minute they may not be. Kids also need to learn how to communicate effectively, because too much digital interaction may start replacing real-life interaction.
IS SOCIAL MEDIA AN EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION TOOL?
“Is Social Media Sabotaging Real Communication?” an article written by Susan Tardanico tells the story of a young college student who attempted suicide after texting her mother that she was fine and smiling emoticons. Tardanico says that
with 93% of our communication context stripped away, we are now attempting to forge relationships and make decisions based on phrases. Abbreviations. Snippets. Emoticons. Which may or may not be accurate representations of the truth (Tardanico).
This example leads me to wonder, if our children are learning, this early, how to perform a large portion of their communication via devices, are we setting them up for disappointment in the future?
BULLYING AND SOCIAL MEDIA'88% of teens have seen someone be mean or cruel to another person on a social networking site.' -Guard ChildClick To Tweet
Sometimes people see bullies as the big bad wolf in the forest, but some bullies are dressed in sheep’s wool. What do I mean? Sometimes, former kid’s friends really turn out to be their enemies. Several years ago I wrote an article about raising the school bully, “Raising Swiper: Signs to recognize if your kid is the school bully?”
Read related article: When friends become bullies, CNN
Recent news events have highlighted an increased awareness of bullying and social anxiety for kids. While no news has said outright that the usage of social media is directly causing kids to commit suicide; there is a direct link to online bullying and social networks. An article published June 12, 2017 reports that “Victims of cyber bullying are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and consider suicide” (“Cyber Bullying Statistics – Nobullying – Bullying & Cyberbullying Resources”).
While parents will have a lot of control, because kids worse enemies can sometimes be kids who pretend to be their friends, I’m inclined to say use your better judgment parents and err on the side of caution.
MY BIGGEST QUANDARY WITH MESSENGER
Parents probably shouldn’t promote increasing screen-time usage for kids under 13. Aren’t you tired of seeing kids glued to digital devices as it is? I am, and I am constantly placing more stringent rules on my kids as they get older and get their own phones.
More importantly, why not just let kids be kids and have fun? Shouldn’t we be promoting unplugged childhoods that encourage our kids to explore nature, run, play, create, and if they are doing all of that when will they have time to have fun with the apps’ filters, stickers, etc and extended conversations?
ON THE FLIP SIDE
If your child uses this app that you basically have complete control over, you would know what they are up to right? It could also give them a chance to learn how to communicate in an online space responsibly, while you can be their guide.
I disagree, as computer savvy as I am, I already know that my own children are more technically advanced than I am. So you would still need constant communication with your kid about safe online etiquette and hope that they obey.'85% of parents with teenage children 13-17 report that their child have a social networking profile.' Guard ChildClick To Tweet
While I don’t think Messenger Kids is the right choice for my 9-year-old children, I think it can be a good safe option if a parent is will to actively monitor and guide their child’s experience. If you’re comfortable letting your child use a social networking platform, by all means make sure that it is a site like Messenger Kids that has safeguards in place to protect your child from online predators.
What’s your take, do you think you will allow your kid to use the new Messenger Kids App?
— Cleverly Changing (@Cleverlychangin) December 7, 2017
- Most famous social network sites worldwide as of September 2017, ranked number of active users (in millions). “Global Social Media Ranking 2017 | Statistic.” Statista. N.p., 2017. Web. 5 Dec. 2017.
- Chen, Brian. “What’s The Right Age For A Child To Get A Smartphone?.” Nytimes.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 6 Dec. 2017.
- Tardanico, Susan. “Forbes Welcome.” Forbes.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 5 Dec. 2017.
- “Social Media Statistics | Guardchild.” Guardchild.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 6 Dec. 2017.
- “Cyber Bullying Statistics – Nobullying – Bullying & Cyberbullying Resources.” NoBullying – Bullying & CyberBullying Resources. N.p., 2017. Web. 6 Dec. 2017.
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