The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood on Tuesday sent an open letter to Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg calling for the company's Messenger Kids app for Android and iOS to be discontinued, citing a wide variety of concerns in regards to its potential effects on child development and general health. "Younger children are simply not ready to have social media accounts," the group claims, adding that the firm's decision to launch a communications app specifically targeted at pre-teens is "irresponsible," citing a number of recent studies that suggest social media use may be harmful to teenagers and arguing that any negative effects of such technologies are bound to reflect on younger people even stronger as that demographic is less psychologically and emotionally developed.
CCFC's open letter was signed by approximately 100 advocate groups and individuals specializing in child health. Facebook has yet to directly address the matter and has so far only reiterated the main concept behind Messenger Kids, saying that the mobile app was designed to help children stay in touch with their families when they're physically apart, with the service also being under complete control of their parents. The Menlo Park, California-based social media giant repeated its claims in regards to Messenger Kids' business model by saying that no such thing exists; the app doesn't show ads and isn't monetized in any other manner, whereas any data it collects will never be used for commercial purposes, i.e. targeting ads at children when they enter adolescence and grow up, Facebook claims. CCFC isn't convinced by those arguments and is quick to point out Facebook doesn't need a separate solution for allowing kids to make video calls, saying that they can do us much using their parents' accounts under supervision, in addition to having third-party alternatives such as Skype at their disposal. The coalition also alleges that Facebook is using Messenger Kids to nurture young children for transitioning to its main Messenger app and the social media platform itself, both of which are fully monetized.
Finally, CCFC criticized Facebook's decision to target preteens with a dedicated app by claiming that demographic still doesn't have a full understanding of privacy so they can't be expected to know what's appropriate to share online and "navigate the complexities of online relationships" in an effective manner. Besides the open letter, the group started a public petition against Messenger Kids, arguing the society should "tell Mark Zuckerberg: No Facebook for five-year-olds."