Messenger Kids, the latest app by Facebook was released just two days ago on December 4, 2017. Have you checked it out?
As I am a social media marketer who spends a lot of her time online, it was hard not to notice that my Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook feeds blew up with experts weighing in on the subject at hand. These experts are fellow social media marketers.
Many of my fellow marketers applauded Facebook for making this app available for download for kids younger than 13.
"It's a really cool app with amazing parental control settings'"
"Kids can practice being on social media before the age of 13"
No, I Am Not Kidding.
Let me just say that for this topic, I'd rather trust the other experts aka parents with (older) teenagers as they've lived through the harrows of 'social media and teens' in real-life.
From these experts, I hear a completely different tune.
"I have been telling parents to stay away from this app"
"O this can’t go wrong at all."
"This is such a bad idea."
As I did my research for this article I found that Mashable posed TWO good QUESTIONS on LinkedIn, questions I am asking you to think about, and to answer.
QUESTION: How young is too young for children to have the ability to create a social media account on Facebook or any other platform for that matter?
Is this Facebook's way of opening Pandora's box, or do you think Messenger Kids can provide a fun, light-hearted experience for young users that provides peace of mind for parents?
This is the first time the company [Facebook] has allowed children younger than 13 to have an official presence on any of its platforms.
As reported by Mashable, Facebook said it spent the past 18 months talking with childhood development and safety experts to come up with a set of controls that will satisfy the majority of parents' potential concerns.
Here's what they came up with:
A Messenger Kids account must be associated with a parent's existing Facebook account
Parents approve all friend requests via their own Facebook account
Adults must be Facebook friends with the parent of the child they want to message
If another child on Messenger Kids wants to chat, then the parents of both children need to be Facebook friends
Parents are notified if a child blocks or reports an account, and they can take those actions on their child's behalf as well — though they can't read their messages without the child's device
➡️ My issue is not with the platform this new app is on, my issue is with the 'childhood development and safety experts' who have us believe that providing more ways for young kids to be active on social media will have a positive impact on our children!
Look around you! The evidence to the contrary is glaring.
Many teenagers do not know how to
have a one-on-one conversation
look a person in the eye while having a conversation
handle a job interview
behave without a phone in their hand or in their pocket
go on a road trip without their phone
drive without texting
answer simple questions without searching Google for the answer
problem-solve simple problems
There are new statistics out with data that show that dating is on the decline in Generation Z, that teen pregnancy numbers in the UK have dropped significantly (that's good btw - but the reasons why are not), and that some friendships of kids as young as 13 are carried out primarily online vs in person.
“Teens are spending an enormous amount of time, primarily on their smart phones and communicating with their friends electronically,”
She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”
If You Have Young Children, You Need To Pay Attention To This One Thing
I firmly believe it is up to each parent to educate their child on the correct use of social media and on navigating this thing called the internet.
Let me phrase it this way: Would you give your child the key to a car and let them drive around the USA the day they turn 15 (or whatever age they can drive in the state you live in)?
No! Every parent understands the need for the child to learn and get familiar with not just the vehicle, but also the road rules, speed limits, driving boundaries and that each new driver needs to complete a driver's ed course first, for SAFETY reasons.
By giving a young child a smartphone, you've given up the keys to the 'vehicle'! Your child can now drive on this 'highway called internet'. Most parents hand over a phone without first setting rules, enforceable limits, firm boundaries, and social media education."
The older a child is when they first get a phone, the more mature they are. The older they are, the better equipped they are to make decisions about their own online safety.
Before accessing the internet, children need to know about online safety; how to recognize and report porn, sexting, human trafficking, and suicide, what to do when bullied, how and to whom to report bullying, what to post, and more importantly, what not to post, and much much more. If you are not ready to have these types of conversations with your child because of maturity, they are most likely not ready to be on the internet.
If you need guidance on how to talk to your child(ren) or if you are in need of learning more about social media to keep up with your children, check out
The Digital Hallway, run by my friend Sean Smith
Social Savvy Workshops, run by my friend Kristen Daukas
There just aren't enough ways to 100% guarantee that your child will not do something dumb, illegal, stupid, or irreversible at a young age, or see something they aren't ready to see before they fully understand the ramifications.
This new Messenger Kids app will not teach these kids to be savvy, educated, and safe online creatures.
It teaches them to be online creatures.
I always advocate providing some sort of social media education and setting firm boundaries for your child(ren) first. Then hand over a phone if you must. I further recommend periodic 'spot' checks on the accounts to make sure the rules are followed. These rules you set should include rules about when the phone is accessible, and when not, as well as phone usage rules for when at a friends' house. No 'other parent' should carry the responsibility for monitoring what your child does on their phone while visiting. It's your responsibility to have taught your child the right and the wrong way, no matter where they are or who they are with.
[Side Note: This is why I have never used Circle with Disney or any other parental guidance app to restrict my kids' internet access. Where there is a will, they will find a way. I'd rather they know the rules and suffer consequences when the rules are broken.]
What's Next? You Decide!
Articles with different points of view than mine have already been written about the new Messenger Kids app. They run the gamut from 'excellent idea' to 'good app to learn on' to 'what can go wrong' to 'no way would I let my kids on Messenger Kids'.
Here is a sampling, with first up the announcement by Facebook.
Raising the next generation: what are parents thinking and how can Facebook help?
What parents need to know about Facebook's new messenger app for kids.
Facebook takes aim at children under age 13 with Messenger Kids
A second reason I will not download the Messenger Kids app is this:
There are no ads, and Facebook says it won't hand over data from Messenger Kids to advertisers. However, there's no getting around the fact that it opens up the possibility of hooking a new generation on Facebook long before they're old enough to even have their own accounts.
I also believe that while there will be no data mining from the kids, there already is plenty of that going on with the parents - who wants to be even more of an ad target? Not me!
Your Turn: Do You Applaud Facebook for Forward Thinking or Are You Appalled?