Social Media Sharing: A Community Guide

Steward technology experts weigh in on the best ways to approach, monitor children’s social media usage.

What should parents know about the new Facebook app for kids, Messenger Kids?

Mrs. Ricketts: This app, which was released in December 2017, was designed for children between the ages of six and 12. Facebook consulted with child development experts during the 18 months of development. It is expected that parents will download the app as well as send and accept friend requests. Ads will not be displayed and data will not be shared for advertising purposes. However, Facebook will collect and analyse content and app use. They will share this with companies owned by Facebook as well as outside companies.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection ACT (COPPA) is a law that requires parental permission in order to collect data on children under 13, but companies can get around this by asking for parental permission for the child to use the service. However, it has been my personal observation that many young children have set up their own accounts on various social media sites without their parents’ knowledge. If the sign-up is done online, can the company really verify who actually activated the account?

By January 30, over a dozen concerned organizations banded together to ask Facebook to disable the app. In a letter, organized by Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, these organizations point out 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.” I happen to agree. I believe young children should be developing face-to-face relationships and a healthy self-image before they dive into the the complex world of social media. In a society where many people look at their phones more than they do their friends and family, we do not need to cultivate this habit at an even earlier age.

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