Facebook is looking to get consumers hooked at a young age by rolling out a new messaging app for kids between the ages of six and 12.
According to news in The Wall Street Journal, Messenger Kids is a standalone chat and messaging app, enabling children to send texts, messages and videos to contacts approved by their parents. The mobile app can be downloaded on their child or children’s tablet or smartphone, activated and then controlled through their parents’ account.
In creating the app, the social media giant said it consulted with child development and online safety experts, as well as parent/teacher groups and thousands of parents. Facebook stated that data collected will only include children’s names.
“What parents told us is there is a clear need for a service that looks like a responsible on-ramp to the internet,” said Facebook spokesman William Nevius told the Wall Street Journal. Facebook believes there is a need for such an app. By launching Messenger Kids, the company can groom the next generation of users for its social media platform.
Facebook has been struggling with the younger generations, as teens and young adults shun Facebook for newer and seemingly cooler mobile apps. Messenger Kids offers masks and other Snapchat-type features that younger demographics have come to enjoy.
While Facebook is excited about the potential for this new kids-focused social media platform, child development experts told the Wall Street Journal they are concerned about the messages the children will see and the fact that they could get addicted to social media at a very young age.
“In my research, clinical work and friendships, I’ve never heard parents say that they want their child using social media earlier,” said Jenny Radesky, assistant professor, pediatrics at the University of Michigan, who specializes in developmental and behavioral health.