Should Facebook’s App for Kids Freak Parents Out?

Facebook’s kid-friendly app, Messenger Kids, has officially launched. While many parents may feel uneasy about allowing their kids to communicate on social media with an app developed by Facebook –  which has seen its fair share of backlash for lack of security, online bullying, and more – perhaps we should give the pint-sized version of Messenger a chance.

The app allows any child over the age of 13 to create an account and access it. This is also the age requirement for Facebook’s full site, but the main reason for Messenger Kids‘ existence is so that parents can feel at ease knowing their kids are on an app that is built specifically for them and their peers. Still, can a lighter version of Facebook’s chat app really be trusted just yet?

Can You Trust Facebook With Your Teens?

Source: CNN Money

Well, whether or not to trust Facebook with your kid is somewhat complicated to decide right away. So far, chat apps are everywhere and it’s sad that we sometimes don’t know which platform is safer than the others. Maybe Messenger Kids is will at least keep children away from all other apps and that way you’ll have one place to monitor their online communication.

One thing that remains to be a red flag is that companies including Twitter, Snapchat, Kik, and Facebook are all competing for the attention of the upcoming generation. The key objective is to ingrain their brand into the kids’ minds so that their product will remain part of everyday life as they grow into adulthood.

Could it also be possible that the brains behind Messenger Kids would employ other unethical tactics to keep the kids glued to the platform? According to the social media giant, Messenger Kids is designed to be ad-free and void of in-app purchases – not to say the company won’t change its strategy at a later point, though.

So What Might Have Triggered The Invention of Messenger Kids?

Well, ideally, the kids’ app might have come as Facebook’s response to the many complains that the public has raised concerning the platform. Research about the impact of social media on the current generations has not been overly positive. For one, people who use these social networks have exhibited higher stress levels as well as anxiety, which can interfere with their quality of life.

Source: Today Show

There is also the issue of manipulation that most experts say is the #1 point of concern when it comes to social platforms. Claims have also surfaced that these platforms have the power to alter people’s moods –  and worse – their likelihood of voting through tweaking of news feeds and so on. That is exactly what Russia was blamed for in the recently completed campaigns for presidential election in the US.

Facebook admitted that fake accounts from Russia managed to share content with over 126 million targeted American Facebook users, but it’s not clear how many votes were ‘diverted’. That simply explains how vulnerable these social networks are to abuse. We can only hope that Messenger Kids will not be close to that kind of vulnerability.

Facebook’s Action Against Fake News

After everything surfaced, Facebook didn’t take the issue of fake news lightly and recently promised that folks will be seeing fewer posts from media companies and more status updates from people within their inner circle (i.e. friends and relatives).

Source: FactCheck

You can also personally customize your news feed as well to show what you want to see first on your Facebook feed with a few settings. As far as Messenger Kids, it would be good if the app was able to detect the slightest sign of ill-intended content (let’s say using AI-power,) to block it even without the parent’s knowledge.

Kids and Apps Regulation

To control how kids interact with apps, the US federal law is clear that children should only be allowed to register an online account if they are 13 years and above –well to be precise Messenger Kids meets that regulation. The rule is called Children’s Online Privacy Protection (COPPA). And it basically controls how a social platform collects, shares or uses children’s online data, as well as encourage parents to take charge of data collection.

However, how many times has this regulation been broken? Well, Facebook might have consulted COPPA before building Messenger Kids but my concern is; will the control body effectively monitor the app, bearing the fact that it has not been effective enough in the past?

A Plus For Facebook

Besides all the questions that surround this app, its design seems impressive to the parents because at least it offers full parental control. As in, the parent must issue an authorization to signing up for a new Messenger Kids account as well as adding of new friends -this is done from the parent’s Facebook account.

However, again it would have been excellent if Facebook didn’t include some other somewhat grown-up features like when and how long a contact has been online. Because that can raise some kind of anxiety once the kid doesn’t get an immediate reply -yet they saw their friend was online and indeed read their message.

Well, what do you think about Messenger Kids, will it continue to be a safe social network platform for our kids?