Educators, doctors and kid advocates call on Facebook to end ‘Messenger Kids’

Facebook was well-intentioned when it launched its Messenger Kids app for children under 13 last year. It’s ad-free, designed to be kid-safe and offers total parental control; however, a group of organizations, doctors and educators is now calling on the Facebook CEO to shut it down.

In an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the group says:

Given Facebook’s enormous reach and marketing prowess, Messenger Kids will likely be the first social media platform widely used by elementary school children. But a growing body of research demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to children and teens, making it very likely this new app will undermine children’s healthy development. Younger children are simply not ready to have social media accounts.

Organized by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the signatory group includes Common Sense Media, Parents Across America, Parents Television Council, EPIC and the ACLU of Massachusetts, as well as a list of educators, doctors and various other child experts.

The letter adds to the growing narrative that social media is destructive for kids and families. As evidence of Facebook’s “negative influence,” it also cites a number of Facebook’s missteps and scandals from the previous year, including “helping to spread false information, preparing research for an advertising client on how to target teens when they are emotionally vulnerable, and allowing advertisers to discriminate based on age and ethnicity and target messages to racists and anti-Semites.”

The signatories appeal to Zuckerberg’s personal vow to “do better” by “leaving younger children alone” and “pulling the plug” on the app.


About The Author

Greg Sterling
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.