Jan. 30, 2018 -- Facebook should scrap its Messenger Kids app because it could pose health and development risks, 19 groups say in a letter to be sent Tuesday to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.
The 19 groups, which include child advocates and medical experts, contend that children are not prepared for online relationships and don't have an understanding of privacy and the appropriateness of sharing texts, pictures and videos, the Washington Post reported.
The letter, organized by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said research suggests a link between social media use and higher rates of depression among teens, and said it's irresponsible to expose preschool children to the Messenger Kids app, which was launched late last year and is available to children younger than 13.
The letter also said increasing children's screen time could interfere with important development skills such as interacting with the physical world, delaying gratification and reading other people's emotions, the Post reported.
Children don't need their own social media accounts, according to Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Post reported.
"We are at a pivotal moment, and the tech companies need to decide if they are going to act in a way that is more ethical and more responsive to the needs of children and families, or are they gong to continue to pursue profits at the expense of children's well-being?"
Messenger Kids has no advertising and parents who use the app say it helps them stay in touch with their children when they're at work or away, according to Facebook.
"We worked to create Messenger Kids with an advisory committee of parenting and developmental experts, as well as with families themselves and in partnership with National PTA. We continue to be focused on making Messenger Kids the best experience it can be for families," Facebook's global head of safety, Antigone Davis, said in a statement, the Post reported.
The criticism of Facebook's Messenger for Kids is the latest example of opposition to the companies promoting the use of digital technology by children and teens.
Earlier this month, two major Apple investors said the company's products could cause long-term physical or mental harm to children and needs to change how it approaches some of its young customers, the Post reported.