Facebook’s new app for kids, called Messenger Kids, has received an avalanche of criticism from parents and child health advocates.
Messenger Kids is a texting-type service that a parent sets up for a child through the parent’s own Facebook account. It doesn’t have a News Feed or a “like” button but many elements of the social network are there, including emojis, selfies, video chat and group texting. It’s targeted to children 6 through 12.
I’m predicting this story will be in the news for several months because of the popularity of Facebook, the world’s Number One social media site, and because of the increased emphasis on child safety. That’s why it’s perfect for newsjacking, the process of taking a hot story already in the news and using it as a springboard for publicity.
How do Publicity Hounds do that?
By commenting on it as a subject matter expert, offering a quiz around it, conducting a survey tied to it, or creating other types of content that beg people to share it.
Facebook introduced the app a few months ago to immediate criticism from parents and groups that say 6-year-olds aren’t ready for social media. They fear that the app is a gateway to social media use, and that Facebook eventually can start targeting ads to children, much like they do for adults.
The app is also a handy way to hook young kids. That’s important since recent studies indicate that Facebook users could be spending up to 24 percent less time on the platform, perhaps because of algorithm changes or burnout.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Boston-based nonprofit, has created a coalition of about 100 child health advocates and groups to sign its open letter asking Facebook to discontinue the messenger app. It’s urging parents and others to sign a public petition under the slogan “‘no Facebook for five year olds.”
Publicity Hooks & Angles to Pitch
Here are nine ways authors, speakers and experts can piggyback onto this story:
- Advertising executives, can Facebook be trusted when it says that “Your child’s information isn’t used for ads”? This week, the Wall Street Journal published a fascinating article under the headline “Facebook Really Is Spying on You, Just Not Through Your Phone’s Mic.” It explained the many ways Facebook and advertisers collect data about you and then resell it with the purpose of targeting you for paid ads.
- Child safety experts, can you share interesting statistics about how social media use contributes to childhood depression and learning problems?
- Social media experts, should kids as young as 6 have social media accounts? Explain why or why not, and don’t be afraid to take a contrarian viewpoint. You can also comment on the contention by David Marcus, Facebook’s vice president of Messaging Products, that Messenger Kids does not qualify as social media in the same way that Snapchat does. Update on June 18, 2019: You can also find an excellent article on “What Does Facebook Know About Me (It’s Scary.)
- Pediatricians and child psychiatrists, what disturbing physical and mental health problems are you seeing in children, as a direct result of spending too much time on mobile phones and tablets, and participating on social media?
- Online safety experts, does the online safely that Facebook promises with this app outweigh the concerns of critics who don’t like the app for the reasons listed above?
- PTA members, Facebook says it asked the National PTA for input when creating the app. Will your local PTA take a position on this app and encourage members to sign petitions? How are your local members reacting to it?
- Teachers, will this app encourage children to learn reading and writing faster if they know they can use it to communicate with friends and family?
- Marketing and PR experts, can a campaign like this one, which goes up against the world’s largest social media platform, be successful and force Facebook to reconsider? The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has successfully pushed companies to kill marketing like the Pokemon Go app that sent children to fast food restaurants and stores.
- Parents, are you letting your kids use Facebook Messenger? Have you limited the amount of time your kids can spend on it?
Those are my ideas. I’d love to see some of yours. Also, would you let your kids or grandkids use this app? If so, have you placed restrictions on it?