Facebook's "Messenger Kids" for 6-year-olds has parents, experts concerned

(WHAM photo)

Facebook's "Messenger Kids" is a new Facebook app for kids, a texting service that a parent sets up for their child to communicate with them. This app is for kids as young as six.

This app is not part of the main Facebook service. There's no news feed or a "like" button. However, some parents and social media experts say six years old is too young to be on Facebook.

“The more you let them do, the more they want to do,” said Denise Cussins, a mother and grandmother. Her husband, Randy Cussins, agrees. “I'd rather hear their voice on the phone than sitting reading their messages," he said.

Facebook says parents can control their child's contacts and interactions, but some parents are still concerned. “I would worry about the little kids getting in contact with wrong people,” said Denise Cussins.

The app has no advertising, but it still has features like emojis, selfies, video chat and group texting.

Mike Johansson, Senior Lecture at the School of Communications at RIT, says it could be harmful for kids' development. “The interactions they have online are unlike face-to-face interactions. And we all learn, as we're growing up, to read body language signals to read people's smiles and their eyes and their eyebrows, and we really understand some other signals that are going on. On the screen, you just see words, and that's how misunderstandings happen.”

Johansson believes moving the previous minimum age from 13 to six is meant grab the next generation of Facebook users.

“It becomes part of your life that sort of leaves a hole if you don't check it. Facebook's clearly trying to get younger people into its ecosystem," he said.

Facebook said in a statement, Messenger Kids provides a safer environment for children than many online experiences because parents can control and see their child's contacts and interactions.

The company said it consulted with the National PTA and several academics and families before introducing the app.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off