Facebook kids messenger app sparks debate over youth social media usage

SARASOTA, Fla. - Facebook’s new messenger app for kids is designed to protect children,but more than 100 public health advocates want it shut down.

One Sarasota father, however, likes the app. Brett Thomason was featured on CBS This Morning after he made a YouTube video with his 6-year-old daughter Isla explaining how the app works.

“They had more parental controls,” he said.

Thomason sets up the app through his Facebook page and chooses who his daughter can communicate with.

“She can text message, email video, live video chat,” he explained.

'Wait 'til 8th'

Critics say children like Isla are too young and kids should ‘wait 'til 8th’ - that’s waiting until the eighth grade to have a cell phone or social media access.

“I think not exposing them to any of this does them a real disservice by not preparing them for reality,” Thomason said.

A group of fourth and fifth graders at Sarasota Academy of the Arts agreed.

“I think you should get a chance to learn about it before the 8th grade," said Tyreeg, a fifth grader.

His classmate, Skylar, 11, shared his sentiment. 

“It’s all around us. I think it’s good for kids to develop skills for technology,” he said.

Being on social media before the eighth grade could be seen as a way to survive school, added 10-year-old Ada.

“I feel you might get picked on if you do wait until you’re an 8th grade a lot of kids get phones way before 8th grade,” she said.

Out of the group of nine students, two are on Instagram, four are on Snapchat and all are on YouTube.

Each of their parents monitor their accounts, which allows them to learn social media safety, they said.

“They make sure I’m not talking to anyone I don’t know,” said Skylar.

“How to block people from getting into your account,” added Parker, 10, a fourth grader.

“Don’t follow them back, look at their account, don’t talk back to them," Ada said.

The students also know that social media can be dangerous.

“It connects people also can tear people down with cyber bullying,” explained Skylar.

© 2018 WTSP-TV


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