Local experts urge caution over Facebook’s new Messenger Kids app

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This week Facebook rolled out a new social media app for children between six and 12 years old called "Messenger Kids."

Parents are able to monitor a child’s activity on the app, which looks similar to the regular Facebook Messenger app.

In a statement explaining the new app, Facebook said: “To give kids and parents a fun, safer solution, we built Messenger Kids, a standalone app that lives on kids’ tablets or smartphones but can be controlled from a parent’s Facebook account.”

But local child psychologists and family therapists aren’t convinced.

“We haven’t found any research that says social media use is helpful for a kids mental health,” said Susan Dunaway, a licensed professional counselor. “So just because kids are using it, doesn’t mean we need to give them more avenues to use it more.”

Child psychologist Caroline Danda agrees.

“I don’t know that it’s as much as a real connection as it is going to a friends’ house and running around or playing together,” Danda said. “I’d rather have that face-to-face interaction.”

Facebook explains that children who sign up for Messenger Kids, with their parents supervision, will not automatically be set up with a Facebook account when they turn 13.

Even so, child heath experts like Dunaway remain skeptical.

“I really don’t get people in my office who say, ‘I’m so very glad I hooked my kid up with social media; it’s working out really well for me.'"