The Facebook app “Messenger Kids” released several feature updates as well as a news alert that they’d expanded service to a number of new regions. They’ve suggested that they’ve responded to parent requests for updates, that they’ve brought software changes according to recommendations from their “Youth Advisers” and important people in child-related leadership roles. But it’s still a social networking app run by Facebook whose most likely ultimate goal is to bring new users into the fold.
Earlier this month, Facebook Messenger Kids started rolling out new controls for parents to work with the accounts used by their children. This week, Facebook pushed an expansion of Messenger Kids into new countries and regions that’d not yet had access to said service.
It’s unfortunate that Facebook’s proven their inability (so very many times) to provide a service without gathering and utilizing personal information from the people they serve. Whether they’re secretly rating users’ trustworthiness or denying users the right to delete their account. The idea that children would be able to communicate with friends during our current global pandemic would seem like a good idea. In an ideal world (that somehow still contained COVID-19 quarantine) a Messenger Kids system could provide a greatly beneficial service to the world.
But Facebook’s Messenger Kids platform is part of Facebook. Facebook is a public company, a company whose goal is profit through advertisements. Advocacy groups have suggested that Messanger Kids, even the idea of the service, is not a good idea.
If Facebook wants Messenger Kids to be a success, and for the platform to be a conduit through which kids will grow up to be lifelong Facebook users, they’re probably already taking the steps they need to make that happen. If, on the other hand, Facebook wants Messenger Kids to be of service to the world for the greater good of our global community, they’ll spin the service off from Facebook entirely.
Messenger Kids should be an independent service with developer support that’s not subject to the whims of Facebook leadership. With the infrastructure support of Facebook without the cloud of Facebook’s less-than-stellar record on user privacy (see: stranger danger), Messenger Kids could be great. Until then, use with caution.