In Brief

Experts call on Facebook to pull Messenger Kids app

Open letter to Mark Zuckerberg warns children are ‘not old enough’ for online friendships

Child health experts have urged Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to scrap Messenger Kids, a social media app aimed at children under the age of 13. 

More than 110 doctors, educators and child health advocates have signed an open letter led by the US-based Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood that warns Zuckerberg of the danger that social media can pose for young people, The Guardian reports. 

In the letter, the authors say “social media use by teens is linked to significantly higher rates of depression, and adolescents who spend an hour a day chatting on social networks report less satisfaction with nearly every aspect of their lives”.

The authors add that young children “are not old enough to navigate the complexities of online relationships, which often lead to misunderstandings and conflicts even among more mature users”.

In a statement issue in response to the letter, Facebook’s head of safety, Antigone Davis, said the company had created the app with “an advisory committee of parenting and developmental experts, as well as with families themselves and in partnership with National PTA (parent teacher association)”, The Washington Post reports. 

Facebook says that Messenger for Kids is advert-free and that parents who use the app are happy they can communicate with their children during work hours. 

Although the app is not yet available in the UK, Barnardo’s chief Javed Khan told The Daily Telegraph last year that the charity has “serious concerns” about Messenger Kids launching in Europe. 

An official UK launch date has not yet been announced.

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