Today in Tech Crunch, David Marcus, head of Facebook Messenger, went to battle for the new Facebook Messenger for kids. He said, “My daughter uses it on a daily basis now. It has enabled me to be more in touch with her.” Sir, if you need an app to get more in touch with your daughter, something is missing.
There is nothing good about Messenger for kids. Let’s just set the safety aspect of this aside for a moment because that is a no-brainer argument. Let’s talk about the happiness quotient of a screen-filled life. We have quite a bit of research available to us these days about how increased screen time lowers our happiness, including this latest piece from Quartz aimed specifically at studying kids. Facebook Messenger, aimed at children as young as six years old, sets a dangerous precedent about interpersonal communication and personal relationships. It lulls people into thinking that interacting with people via a screen, rather than in person, is the preferred method of building a relationship.
I am as hooked to the screen as the next guy. I work diligently to keep my “work” away from my personal life. However, we need to draw a line for kids’ sake. As we do with alcohol, cigarettes, and every other dangerous choice, we need to help kids understand that screens are not native to happiness, can be a threat to their safety, and need to be learned with care—the same as getting behind the wheel of a car.
My Social Media For Kids Experiment
When the new “social media app for kids” called Kudos came out, I did some research and found it very easy to create a fake profile and start interacting with kids. They boasted about their security—what a farce. If I can hack the system, and I am no nerd, imagine what someone who is versed at that sort of thing could do. Isn’t it time we started standing up for the well being of our children and stopped worrying about whether they will like us or not?
Parents—I urge you not to get your kids into social media before they are 13. Give them a chance to have a screen-less childhood that teaches them the value of face-to-face communication. Help them learn to look people in the eye when they talk to them, not at a screen. Just say no to Facebook Messenger for Kids.
I know this is outside the box of my usual blog post but I spent several years training students and teachers to use social media responsibly and my gut tells me we are going in the wrong direction on this. I need to speak up. Hopefully, you will indulge me.