Over 100 public health advocates have called on Facebook to pull the plug on Messenger Kids, the first major social platform designed for young children. In a letter written by the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood, the coalition detailed ways the new app will undermine children’s health and development.
Sputnik discussed the movement with Josh Golin, Executive Director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
Sputnik: Can you explain the reason for this concern, this apprehension regarding Messenger Kids?
Josh Golin: The reason we wrote the letter, and so many experts and advocates signed on to the letter, is because this is the first real effort by a major social media company, in fact, the largest social media company in the world, to get young kids on social media. So there's a growing body of evidence that excessive time on social media is harmful for adolescents, and developmentally younger children are going to be even more vulnerable to the problems that present themselves on social media. We think it's really important to protect children, young children, from social media, way before the time they start going on social media. By Facebook moving into this space, there's a real danger that that's going to start normalizing social media use by eight-year-olds, seven-year-olds and even six and five-year-olds.
Sputnik: How young? Four and five-year-olds. That seems awfully young to me…
Josh Golin: Yes, it seems awfully young to me and to the parents we've talked to and to experts who have studied this. At that age, it's so important for children to have face-to-face relationships, to play face-to-face with their friends so they can see what their friends' facial expressions are, and they can learn things like how to have healthy relationships, to understand what another person might be feeling, develop empathy. Online, as we all know as adults, relationships can be incredibly complicated, there's a huge opportunity for misunderstandings and beyond that, there's also a tremendous pull to be on social media. We know this from research with adolescents, and even with adults — that social media is incredibly addicting, and for young children, for parents screen time is already such a concern and a battle, this has the potential to really have kids just wanting to be on there all the time, so they can talk to their friends online, when really they should be playing with their friends offline.
For more information, listen to this edition of Weekend Special with Josh Golin.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.
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