Thank you, Facebook

Facebook is targeting its next generation of users with the new Messenger Kids app.

Now that Millennials and pretty much everyone else except old people (hey, how else are we supposed to remember people’s birthdays?!) have abandoned Facebook for Snapchat and Instagram and other stuff I’m too old to know about, Facebook is reaching out to toddlers and elementary school children.

Thank you, Facebook.

While the American Academy of Pediatrics – and any adult with common sense – is warning us to limit screen time for children, and essentially eliminate it for toddlers younger than 2, Facebook is reaching out to encourage more screen time for the kids.

After all, every parent wants another reason to fight with their kids about putting down the screen and going outside to play. (By the way, the AAP also recommends at least 60 minutes of outdoor play/exercise for children).

In case you haven’t heard about it, Facebook has a new messaging app aimed at young children, so they can be properly brought up to be addicted to Facebook in their teen and adult years. The app, called Messenger Kids (cute name), lets kids younger than 13 send texts, videos and photos. They can also add stickers. Kids love stickers, don’t they?

First, I’m pretty sure there are a lot of middle school kids laughing their heads off right now. As if. Most of them probably already have the real thing or don’t care because they’re using something their parents don’t have any clue about. And, anything that requires a parent’s permission to sign up and to “friend” another person is probably not…well, it’s just not.

And then there probably are plenty of parents laughing their heads off at the company’s claim that “data collection will be limited.” As if. If you believe that, I have a silver unicorn in my backyard that you can come visit and feed with a golden apple.

This is all a way for Facebook to market itself to young children while skirting around the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act that says companies can’t target children with their advertising.

Your kids are a lucrative, un-mined field for big tech. Google, Amazon and Facebook all want a piece of that kiddie action. I’m sorry, but none of them create products because they want to contribute to the greater good of society. They want to make money.

Facebook may be luring parents in with the notion that the parents actually have control over the product, including who and what their children connect with. To me, that’s like parents who say they would rather have underage alcohol parties at their homes so they can monitor the drunken teens.

And then, there’s the whole thing about kids using messaging platforms to interact anyway. Your time would be better spent rounding up your kids and their friends and taking them to the local park to play. While the kids get dirty, play games and run up and down the slide, you can sit on a bench and go through your social media – I’m not judging. But there’s a lot of emerging research about anxiety, depression and social difficulties created by too much screen time.

Facebook executives aren’t trying to give parents a great product for their kids. They’re trying raise the next generation of users, and I would bet, probably storing up your child’s information to share, if not to advertisers, to collect as “big data” to learn how to make products to market even more things to your kid.

It reminds me of tobacco companies using cartoon camels to sell cigarettes and saying they’re not targeting the next generation of smokers.

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Editor's Blog

Living the empty nest life, and loving it.

About This Blog

Betty Casey has been editor of TulsaKids for over 20 years – her youngest child was 3-years-old when she started working for the magazine. She and her husband Wes have three young adult children. Betty’s blog ranges from writing about current issues or information of interest to local parents, reflecting on her life without kids at home, and posting a few recipes now and then. (Cooking and running are two or her favorite past-times.) Betty is the author/illustrator of three children’s books, "May Finds Her Way," "That is a Hat" and "The Prince of the Prairie" (The RoadRunner Press). She was named Blogger of the Year in 2014 by The Great Plains Journalism Awards, was a finalist in 2015 and won again in 2016. Most recently, she was named the 2017 News Blogger of the Year. She has also won numerous writing awards from the Parenting Media Association.

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