Letter: Parents worries for young children ahead of Facebook Messenger Kids app UK launch
Date published: 28 February 2018
Children’s charity Barnardo’s
Facebook’s new Messenger Kids app, aimed at children under 13, has been the subject of controversy in America where it is being trialled.
Almost 100 US child health experts recently wrote to Facebook’s chief executive to raise concerns about its potential risks to children and called for its withdrawal.
Ahead of its anticipated UK launch, an online YouGov survey for Barnardo’s of 1,000 parents has revealed similar anxieties.
Ninety per cent of parents have concerns about their young children using Facebook’s new Messenger Kids service and more than half (51%) would not currently let their child use it, according to the survey for Barnardo’s.
More than half (52%) expressed concern that the app’s security features would not be strict enough to protect their children online and 61% were worried strangers could pose as their children’s friends. Over half (51%) were concerned children could use it to share inappropriate or explicit images and 57% worried their children could be bullied while using the service.
The app allows children as young as six to communicate via a tablet or smartphone either in groups or on one-to-one video calls and send text messages and pictures.
Barnardo’s services supporting young people who have been sexually exploited saw a 38% rise in referrals last year. Our research shows many children who are groomed online are later sexually abused or exploited in the real world.
Barnardo’s is not yet convinced by Facebook’s assertion that controls for the messaging app are stringent. Not all parents will feel confident or have sufficient knowledge of the technology to keep their children safe when using the app, and we understand it can be hard to spot if a profile is genuine or a potential danger.
As our survey shows, parents are unconvinced there is a need for Messenger Kids, and we urge industry to listen to them.
Barnardo’s North West
The views expressed are those of the author of the letter and not those of Rochdale Online.