FACEBOOK GETS DOWN WITH THE KIDS
Posted By Andy Smith
Growing up in the late 90s and early noughties, one of my clearest memories is rushing in from school, throwing down my bags and logging straight onto MSN Messenger – all to the soundtrack of a dial-up internet connection.
It was a digital institution for everyone my age. Nothing could beat spending all evening messaging the same friends you’d spent all day with, and the family arguments that came as a result of someone disconnecting you by using the house phone were second to none!
By the looks of it, the developers at Facebook were harking back to the same nostalgic memory when designing the new service announced by the platform earlier this week – Messenger Kids, a new app which will allow children under the age of 13 to communicate with friends and family online.
Initial reactions have been negative, with many people worrying that Facebook is seeking to foster its next generation of users too early, while also potentially exposing youngsters to the dangers of online communication.
Issues publicised recently surrounding the suitability of some content on YouTube Kids have left parents hyper sensitive to the dangers of online activity, so it’s definitely a slightly odd time to launch, but is Messenger Kids such a bad idea?
Personally, I think it’s a genius move by the social network. Games like Minecraft have communities to allow players to chat and many of the most popular games on PlayStation and Xbox allow users to connect with strangers all over the world, so it’s important to bear in mind that kids are already very much active in this area.
When Facebook made the announcement, it was extremely vocal around safety – and rightly so. Child safety groups were heavily involved in the development of the new app and the organisation has published an extensive FAQ section and a so-called ‘Hard Questions’ article on child safety to help reassure parents and guardians.
With this in mind, and when considering the well-documented potential risks children are exposed to by other apps and games they’re already using, shouldn’t the launch of a new, safer environment for them to chat with pals be celebrated?
As with anything related to the safety of kids, this app is bound to divide opinion – there’s no escaping it. Plus, we can’t predict how successful it’ll be until it’s fully up and running. You never know, youngsters may deem it to be ‘uncool’ and then there’s no hope for Facebook whatsoever!
For now though, I’m just jealous that the children of today will get to enjoy the speed of broadband when messaging their friends and not have to endure the dreaded dial-up!
Will you be letting your children try out Messenger Kids? Drop us a tweet @PepperTweets and let us know!