Facebook is showing us once again why it is critical to ensure we keep a watchful eye on our children’s social media. It seems like the popular social media platform just can’t stay out of hot water. And, this time, it’s not just us that is at risk; it’s our children as well.
In a society that is obsessed with all things social media, it can often feel overwhelming trying to keep up with the latest trends, while ensuring we stay safe online. However, when Messenger Kids launched in 2017, it seemed like a safe way to allow children to chat with a pre-approved list of friends, and family. But, like most things online, nothing is completely safe. On Monday, Facebook announced that there had been a technical error with the messaging app.
This technical error made it possible for children to join a group chat with people who weren’t approved by their parents. Meaning, kids could be disclosing personal information to complete strangers without even realizing. Facebook sent out a notice to the parents stating, “We recently notified some parents of Messenger Kids account users about a technical error that we detected affecting a small number of group chats. We turned off the affected chats and provided parents with additional resources on Messenger Kids and online safety.” The Verge reports that thousands of children were left in chats with unauthorized users as a result of the flaw.
There is much debate around what age children should be exposed to social media. Vivian Friedman, a child psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, notes that children between the ages of six and twelve are able to think in concrete ways. Those from ages twelve to eighteen, are able to think more abstractly. She told CNN that, “Since children think more concretely before adolescence, some may not be able to fully analyze the truth or validity of abstract issues related to social media.” Friedman advises that it is important for parents to talk to their kids about what is appropriate and what is not, especially when it comes to online habits and behaviour.
We can’t shield our children from technology. It is everywhere, and has become an integral part of school, life, and friendships. However, we can arm them with the necessary tools to ensure that they are educated, and informed. Especially when navigating the ever changing, and often unchartered waters of social media.