More than 100 children, health experts are urging Facebook to remove an app aimed at under-13s.
In an open letter to Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, that they call Messenger Kids a “irresponsible,” aimed at encouraging young children to use Facebook.
Young children are not ready to have social media accounts, they say.
Facebook says the app has been designed with online safety experts, in response to the request for more control over the way their children used social media.
This is a simplified, locked-down version of Facebook Messenger app, requiring the agreement of the parents before the use, and the data generated from it is not used for advertising.
The open letter said: “the Messenger Children are probably going to be the first social media platform widely used by elementary school children [four – to -11-year-old].
“But more and more studies show that excessive use of digital devices and social media is dangerous for children and teenagers, it is very likely that this new application will undermine children’s healthy development.
“Young children are simply not ready to have social media accounts.
“They are not old enough to navigate the complexities of online relationships, which often lead to misunderstandings and conflicts, even among the more mature users.”
In response, Facebook said: “Since we launched in December, we heard stories of parents across the country that Messenger to the Children helped them to stay in contact with their children and allowed their children to stay in contact with family members, near and far.
“For example, we have heard stories of parents who work night shifts, be able to read stories to their children, and moms who travel for work to get daily updates of their children while they are there.”
The letter of the question of whether there is a need for Facebook to fill this role, saying: “in Talking with family and friends over long distances does not require a Messenger account for Children. Children can use parents Facebook, Skype or other accounts to discuss with parents. They can also make a phone call.”
The letter cites a range of research linking adolescents ‘ use of social media with the increase of depression and anxiety,” he said.
“Adolescents who spend an hour a day chatting on social networks report less satisfaction with nearly all aspects of their life.
“Eighth graders [13 – 14] that use social media for six to nine hours per week are 47% more likely to report that they are unhappy that their peers who use social media less often.”
He also cites a study of 10 to 12 years of age, girls who are “more likely to idealize thinness, have concerns about their bodies, and have been on a diet”.
Other statistics, quoted from a range of different research, include:
78% of teens check their phone, hours
50% say they are addicted to their phones
Half of parents say the up-regulation of screen time is a constant battle
The experts also dispute Facebook claims that the Messenger Children offer a safe alternative for children who have lied on social media platforms, pretending to be more than what they are.
“The 11 and 12 years old who currently use Snapchat, Instagram or Facebook are unlikely to switch to an application that is clearly designed for young children. Messenger of the Children is not to meet a need – it is the creation of a”, the letter states.
The letter is signed by a range of child protection groups, among which the head of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Other signatories included in the Massachusetts American Civil Liberties Union, and Parents Across America. A crowd of people have also signed, including British scientist Baroness Susan Greenfield.
The government of the united KINGDOM met with the social media, the companies and hardware manufacturers such as Apple in November 2017 and asked them to discuss a range of issues, including:
how to prevent under-age users from accessing their platforms
what constitutes cyber-bullying and how to address it
if it was possible to create pop-up warnings for young people who spend a lot of time online