Messenger Kids, Facebook’s new app designed to allow those under the age of 13 to more safely communicate thanks to parental controls, is today launching on Fire tablets. The service had originally debuted on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch in early December, but today’s launch will also see it arrive on the Amazon Appstore in the U.S., as well.
The app’s debut has not been without controversy.
The move comes at a difficult time for Facebook and for social media in general, where there are increasing concerns about social media’s ability to addict adults, and the impact that screen time has on children in particular.
Just this week, for example, Apple responded to investor concerns that the company needs to do more in terms of giving parents a way to limit children’s phone use. Apple said it would add new parental control features to its software.
Facebook, meanwhile, has been criticized across a number of fronts over the past year or so, from its ability to spread disinformation and create divides to how it’s able to hijack users’ brains to create an addiction of sorts. In that light, the launch of Messenger Kids has been criticized as the equivalent of cigarette marketers targeting underage smokers.
That said, as a parent myself, it’s one of those things that’s not as simple to dismiss as you might think.
The truth is, young kids are messaging each other anyway – through apps like Musical.ly, Snapchat and on iMessage. None of these have any tools for parental controls, which actually makes it harder to for parents who do try to monitor their children’s usage of devices and communication software when they’re young.
It’s very difficult today to help guide kids to the online world – and, yet, it’s still something that has to be done. Though we may not like it at times, the web is not going to go away, nor will people all of a sudden stop communicating and networking online.
Facebook, at least, has done something – even as the major tech companies, like Apple, have ignored parents’ concerns for years on this front.
Whether Facebook is the right company to aid in this matter, however, is a valid question. Its interests, after all, are about developing a new generation of users who become reliant on its platform, so it can continue to grow its ad business to the tune of billions.