Culture

Facebook has a psychedelic new drug for your kids

By Oliver Smith 5 December 2017
Summary

Will you succumb to it?

Social media is an addictive substance, so are you ready to give it to your kids?

That’s what Facebook is promising, with the launch of Messenger Kids, a curated version of its chat app full of psychedelic colours and designed to foster Facebook addiction amongst pre-teens.

The only question is, will you be a willing supplier?

Gateway drugs

It’s not even controversial to call social media addictive anymore, it’s just a fact.

Research has proven that “likes” on social media trigger a dopamine response in our brains, and Facebook’s founding president Sean Parker even admitted the network was designed to dispense these hits.

While dopamine isn’t addictive per se, the combined effect of social media on our brains is comparable to that of cocaine addiction.

Luckily very young children, the most susceptible to such addictive temptations, have long been safe from this vice, mostly protected by the ‘13’ age limit on social networks.

But that’s about to change in a big way.

Read more: Social media is becoming ‘crack for kids’

Crack for kids

In what seems like a disaster waiting to happen, Facebook last night unveiled Messenger Kids, a neutered version of its chat app for kids that’s heavily moderated by their parents.

The idea being that every connection your 6 to 12-year-old wants to make must be approved by you, all the conversations are tied to your Facebook profile, and you can check their chat logs if you wish.

With video chat, stickers, GIFs and ‘Likes’, it’s like a muted taste of the real thing.

For Facebook’s part, it insists: “there are no ads in Messenger Kids and your child’s information isn’t used for ads”.

Instead, it’s more of a gateway drug, to get the little ones hooked on the Facebook ecosystem, ready for when they turn 13.

(Un)safe spaces

It’s important to remember that Messenger Kids may be bright and colourful, but it’s still coming from the company that can’t even get a handle on rampant fake news, racist advertisers or Russian propaganda.

Now Mark Zuckerberg is asking you to trust him with our children’s digital communication, a notion that’s already causing huge concern.

“No digital platform used by children under the age of 13 is a safe place, we need to get that straight, it’s not a safe place for their emotional development or their physical development,” Gemma Johnson, founder of MyFamilyClub.co.uk and National Unplugging Day, told The Memo.

“It’s not just about bullying, sexting and the commercial exploitation of children. Luring children away from natural activities, face to face communication and getting them ‘hooked up to the dopamine drip of technology’ is where the commercial gain is for Facebook.”

Parents: it’s time to wake up and realise why there are age restrictions in place, and why Facebook tearing these down is a terrifying prospect.