Anger as Facebook targets under 13s

Like or dislike? Parents approve their child’s contacts but cannot read their messages without permission. @ Facebook

Are you and your friends too young to use social media? Facebook has designed a version of its popular Messenger app for under-13s. One UK politician told it to “stay away from my kids.”

What’s happening

At the moment, you must be over 13 to join Facebook, but perhaps not for much longer. The company has launched a new app in the USA called Messenger Kids. It allows anyone aged between six and 12 to talk to their friends online using text messages, video chats, stickers, GIFs and filters.

Find out more

Facebook says it talked to parents and online safety experts while it was designing the app, to make sure it was safe for children. As a result, parents must be the ones to sign up their children and approve any contacts.

The app will be a “fun experience” for kids which also provides “peace of mind for parents”, claims Facebook.

However, not all parents are reassured, including Jeremy Hunt, the health minister. “Not sure this is the right direction at all,” he tweeted. “Stay away from my kids please Facebook and act responsibly!”

Other parents are less worried. “Tech is going to be something kids adopt,” a father-of-three told The New York Times. At least Facebook is trying to make it safe.

Are you too young for social media?

Some say…

Of course not! There is no reason why kids should not be allowed to chat to their friends online just like anybody else. They have jokes and secrets and worries to share away from prying eyes, and they deserve that privacy. By creating a safe app for young people, Facebook is giving them the freedom to chat online without fear. It is a great idea!

Others think…

Children under 13 are too young for Facebook. There are plenty of other ways to have fun online and in the real world, without the need to go on social media. After all, Messenger Kids still asks children to use their real name, it still collects their data, and it can still be misused by online bullies or other bad people. Why take the risk?

You Decide

  1. Should there be a minimum age limit for social media (and what should it be)?

Activities

  1. Read some of Childline’s tips for staying safe online, either by yourself or as a class.
  2. Then create a poster which summarises this advice for other children your age.

Some People Say...

Connectivity is a human right.”

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg

What do you think?

Word Watch

GIFs
A moving image online.
Reassured
When someone is put at ease or comforted by their fears being removed.
Tech
Short for “technology”, which is the use of knowledge for practical purposes.
Prying
Too nosy, or interested in someone else’s business.
Data
Information. When talking about online data, people are often referring to personal details collected through the internet. This could include your name, location and the websites you visit.
Misused
Used in the wrong way.
Connectivity
Being connected to other people around the world.

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