Meta, a parent company of Facebook, has launched new activities for Messenger Kids that teach internet etiquette. Erik Michael Weitzman (director of product management at Messenger Kids), stated that the new gamified activities “will help kids learn how to use internet safely and practice making good online decisions.” “Pledge Planets” is based on Weitzman’s Messenger Kids Pledge principles: be kind, respectful, safe, and have fun. According to the company, “Be Kind” is the first episode. It features two games that will help children “learn how to act with kindness.”
Rough Reviews: Players need to help the owner read through reviews and match the correct online answer to each one. This game helps children recognize kindness and unkindness and teaches them how to report and block.
Order Up: Players create a sandwich order by choosing the emojis that most closely reflect the mood of the customer. This game teaches children how to read emotions online.
Messenger Kids introduced two new games that teach online safety and awareness to childrenMetaWeitzman reports that the company created the pledge and Pledge Planets activities with guidance and support from experts in child development and online safety. Meta / Facebook introduced Messenger Kids in 2017. It is a simplified version of its Messenger app that connects to a parent’s Facebook profile. After widespread criticism, Facebook decided to scrap plans for a kids’ version of Instagram’s photo-sharing platform.
The question of whether Facebook / Meta / Messenger can offer guidance on internet safety and healthy decisions is irrelevant. What these games really do is teach kids how to use Messenger. Let me be gentle with you for a second. The first thing that came to mind was (the more genuine and well-intentioned) Sesame Street. It is arguably the first TV program designed to teach preschoolers how to use Messenger.
Sesame Street is rightly celebrated for its positive impact on children’s learning skills and for its diverse cast of characters. However, many also pointed out that the show did a great deal teaching children how to watch television and keeping them entertained through play learning.
However, Meta’s platforms have a history of child safety online. Internal documents from Frances Haugen suggest that Meta knew that Instagram could be “toxic” for teenagers and that its algorithms could lead them to self-harming content. Thorn, an online advocacy group for child safety, found that children are subject to harassment and abuse on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Messenger at much higher rates than previously thought.
Recently revealed internal documents reveal that Meta is losing younger users. One projection shows that Meta will lose 45 percent of its teenage users in the next two-years. While Facebook is still a popular platform for teens, most don’t view it as one that they are meant to use. Instagram, on the other hand, has seen its popularity decline in recent years due to both bullying on its app and competition like TikTok. Meta would be teaching a new generation how to use its products, which would fit in with its desire to attract younger users and keep them interested.