It’s “The Social Network” meets “Sesame Street.”
Facebook is targeted kids as young as 6 with a new messaging app introduced on Monday — which some critics worry will be a slippery slope for Mark Zuckerberg’s two-billion strong operation.
Messenger Kids is a training wheels version of its full-fledged product — which will allow children to exchange messages and photos with friends and family as well as video chats.
Facebook said there will be plenty of safeguards built into Messenger Kids. Parents will have to sign their children up for the service and have to approve any person their children communicate with.
At the same time, Facebook is promising not to sell ads into the Messenger Kids stream nor to automatically move the kids onto Facebook when they are eligible.
Messenger Kids will be downloaded onto a child’s device but will be controlled by the parent. The child will not have his or her own Facebook account.
Despite the safeguards, some family safety organization are still wary.
“[Messenger Kids] doesn’t overcome the issues of screen time and screen use and all the other issues that go with technology and kids,” Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, told The Post.
James Steyer, CEO of the kids-focused non-profit group Common Sense, added:
“Why should parents simply trust that Facebook is acting in the best interest of kids? We encourage Facebook to clarify their policies from the start so that it is perfectly clear what parents are signing up for.”
An October study from Common Sense found that children 8 and under now average nearly 2 ¹/₂ hours a day of screen time — with 48 of those minutes clocked from a mobile device.
Balkam, a member of Facebook’s advisory committee, said Facebook has been grappling with its under-aged users for a long time.
“They’re finally coming to grips with the fact that a service, which was created for college kids, is now being used by everyone,” he said.
Balkam said that he is happy to see Facebook introducing safeguards to protect its youngest users, but added that the new app does not take away all responsibility from parents.
In a lengthy post, Facebook product management director Loren Cheng wrote that the social network worked with parenting experts to develop a platform that would allow kids to “connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want.”
Messenger Kids will also allow kids to send GIFs and stickers…