Experts Say Facebook Apps are Bad for Kids

I have been aware for at least three decades how the music industry targets and hooks into young people for the rest of their lives.  For teens (and pre-teens) music is not only formative but also defines a kid’s identity and groups of friends.  At that age, a 4/4 beat at 140 bps with frequencies added that are too high for adults to hear is too much for a child to resist, especially one who hasn’t been taught at an early age to develop an ear for more subtle rhythms and harmonies.  And this can shape a person’s musical tastes for most of his or her life.

I think it is good to recognize the same subversive strategies that online media are taking.  Phone apps are addictive, and companies like Facebook and Snap, Inc. (makers of Snapchat) know this.  Even as an adult, it took me many weeks to wean myself off of Angry Birds and Words With Friends.

Facebook recently released Messenger Kids, a messaging app targeted at children under the age of thirteen.  The marketing message (i.e. spin) that is given by the company is that it is easier for parents to control.  The real message is that Facebook wants to grab kids as early as possible in the same way that the music industry does, thereby forming and controlling what the kids think is a familiar and what is considered an easy user experience as they grow up and try out other applications.

There have been studies that show smartphone-related compulsive behavior, functional impairment, tolerance and withdrawal symptoms are very real in university students.  Do we really want this for teens and tweens too?

There is a group called the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood who promote things like less screen time for kids and sponsor events such as Screen-Free Week. The group recently sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, urging him to discontinue the app.

Read the full letter here:

It is important that we look out for kids’ best interests.  We know so little about the long-term affects of app and Internet addiction.  It is in the best interest of society to be cautious of commercial exploits of this kind and protective of children’s mental health as much as possible.

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