Do your kids use Facebook? If so, are you worried about the new Messenger Kids app?
Ninety per cent of parents say they have concerns about their children using Facebook’s new Messenger Kids service, and more than half (51%) would not let their child use it, according to an online survey for Barnardo’s.
The app, which is aimed at children under the age of 13, has caused controversy in America where it's being trialled. Almost 100 US child health experts recently wrote to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to raise concerns about its potential risks to children and call for its withdrawal.
Ahead of its anticipated launch in the UK, an online survey of 1,000 parents by YouGov for the country’s largest children’s charity has revealed similar anxieties.
More than half (52%) expressed concern that the app’s security features would not be strict enough to protect their children while they were online and 61% said they were worried that strangers could pose as their children’s friends. Over half (51%) said they were concerned that children could use it to share inappropriate or explicit images.
Barely one in 20 (6%) said they had no specific concerns about the app, which allows children as young as six to communicate via a tablet or smartphone either in groups or on one-to-one video calls and send text messages and pictures.
Questioning the need for an app aimed at such young children and the safeguards put in place by Facebook to protect youngsters, Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said:
“Barnardo’s is not yet convinced by Facebook’s assertion that controls for the messaging app are stringent. Not all parents will feel confident managing their children’s accounts and we understand how hard it can be to spot whether a profile is genuine or a potential danger."
The survey found that 21% of parents did not feel confident enough or have sufficient knowledge of the technology to keep their children safe when they are using the app.
While 43% thought it better for their children to use apps like Messenger Kids rather than adult versions, more than half (57%) had concerns their children might be bullied while using Facebook Messenger Kids, while 56% were worried the app could be hacked and 44% were anxious about their children’s data being insecure.
Barnardo’s appeal is seeking funds to provide practical help to girls and boys as young as 10 who are referred to the charity for support through its child sexual exploitation services.
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