JEREMY HUNT today blasted Facebook for launching a new app aimed directly at under-13s despite promising to protect young children.
The social media giant has started a trial of Messenger Kids, a version of its popular messaging app which will be only used by kids.
Not sure this is the right direction at all. Facebook told me they would come back with ideas to PREVENT underage use of their product, but instead they are actively targeting younger children. Stay away from my kids please Facebook and act responsibly! https://t.co/XrwfSHsUMj
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) December 5, 2017
The Health Secretary reacted angrily to the news, writing on Twitter: “Not sure this is the right direction at all.
“Facebook told me they would come back with ideas to PREVENT underage use of their product, but instead they are actively targeting younger children.
“Stay away from my kids please Facebook and act responsibly!”
Mr Hunt has previously expressed concern over the toll that social media can take on children’s mental health.
He was joined in his criticism by leading children’s society Barnardo’s, which said the firm is targeting kids too young to use social media responsibly.
Chief executive Javed Khan said today: "We have serious concerns about young children using Messenger Kids and would urge Facebook to work with child safety experts before introducing it in the UK to protect children from grooming or sharing inappropriate images.
“This app could put pressure on parents to introduce social media earlier to children who may not have developed the emotional resilience to cope with engaging with others online.
“The question needs to be asked whether children as young as six need this."
Messenger Kids, launched in the US yesterday, requires parents to set up an account for their child rather than letting youngsters open their accounts themselves.
Parents must then sign off on all their child’s contacts, meaning that in theory they cannot speak to anyone through the app without parental permission.
The NSPCC said the app was “a step in the right direction” because it discourages kids from lying about their age to get an account on Facebook, which has a minimum age of 13.
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