UBC psychologist alarmed by Facebook's new Messenger Kids app. Target users, children aged 4-12, 'not ready to take on the challenges of social media:' developmental expert

The messaging platform, aimed at children aged four to 12, launched in December.

Facebook's new Messenger Kids app is receiving heavy criticism from experts for being potentially harmful to young children.

The messaging platform, aimed at children aged four to 12, launched in December. Facebook and Facebook Messenger require users to be 13 or older to sign up.

Jennifer Shapka, a developmental psychologist at the University of British Columbia, says she is worried about the effect the new app is having on kids' physical and emotional health.

"It's kind of beyond me why we'd endorse yet another way that encourages kids to sit behind a screen," she told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.

Canadians spent an average of 24.5 hours online per week, a survey from Media Technology Monitor found last year.

Online safety

But the bigger issue, Shapka believes, is that younger children are not ready to take on the challenges of social media. 

Her current research explores the online risks associated with cyberbullying.

"We struggle to help kids and even adults understand how to be socially responsible online," she said. "With younger kids who do not have the cognitive capacity, that's going to be even more difficult."



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