Facebook has recently unveiled its latest product, one that is catered to an unlikely target group – 6 to 12-year-olds. Facebook, this far, was a social media site meant for those above the age of 13. In many ways, it still is. Except the fact that kids below 13 now have the option of using the Messenger service.
Launched on iOS, the app is presently available for iPhone users only. Facebook, however, plans of making it available across all platforms in the coming weeks. The company says it made the decision of launching the product after ensuring every precaution was taken.
Children don’t need to sign up with Facebook in order to use this Messenger. Also, control of monitoring and accepting friend and family connections lies with parents. This allows parents to keep constant track of who their child is interacting with.
The app primarily includes a bunch of kid-friendly and age-appropriate gifs, emoticons, stickers, masks and drawing tools. Facebook says that these features will allow kids to decorate their messages, letting them to express their personality.
Another noble feature of Messenger Kids is that it doesn’t feature any ad. Nor will it use your child’s messages as information for customized ads. Evidently, Facebook is on the right side of the fence on the issue of children exploitation online.
However, the introduction of this app by a social media giant like Facebook does open up the debate for several pressing questions. Does this give our children another reason to stay indoors? Are we passing on our obsession with gadgets now onto our kids as well – and that too at a fairly young age?
In a study conducted by the Clinical Psychological Science journal, it found a strong correlation between growing teenage depression and use of social sites. Jean Twenge, a practicing psychologist who recently published her findings in The Atlantic,explained how young children who use social media to find out what their friends were up to were most likely to report feeling ‘lonely’ or ‘left out.’
There is no escaping the fact that social websites have impacted people’s lives in several ways – creating a superficial, virtual world unto itself. Does Facebook really need to attract this new target base? Or will this move turn out to be a reputation risk for the company? That, time will tell. For now, it’s time to induct your children into the world of online messaging.