Safety Check, the new Facebook Messenger Kids is not safe


I cannot stand the invasiveness of Facebooks Messenger. I cannot stand the fact that is harangues and hassles me on every platform I use.  I detest the silliness and childishness of the Facebook “Wave”. Its corny, daft and insulting. I hate being invited to Candy Crush when I neither asked for it, nor know of it. This happened not once but hundreds of times until I figured a sneaky way to stop it. And don’t bother trying to become really good at using Messenger – its cross-platform consistency is non-existent. And yes, with Facebook, you can still Poke someone. And Wave. Perhaps Poke them then Wave. Is it the other way around? I regret I am uncertain of the protocol.

So why would Facebook now risk our united displeasure over Messenger? Apparently, Messenger is more than an Instant Messenger (IM). An IM is the ability to send and receive text messages in real-time over the Internet.  Messenger has more features than the ability to send text to your Facebook friends. These include mobile payments and sending multimedia. Messenger is a central pillar to Facebook’s broader strategy to monetarize the application.

I hate it when I accept a friend request from a person who I think is a student or acquaintance and then get an inbox message from that self-same person: “Hi, thanks for accepting. I want to tell you more about me. Please send me your private email address.”  This typically arrives with a slightly embarrassing though not illegal picture of the sender. Surely this person is a serial offender?  Facebook, you know when I break-wind, surely you know these freaks. And their techniques?

Oh, it is all about connections, right Facebook? Just let the freaks and miscreants join and stay to bolster numbers with perhaps a plan to block them later? But the numbers felt so good, that you kept them?

But wait! Facebook goes even further in their numeric connection quest! Now they want to introduce Messenger Kids for 6-12 years old.  Facebook assures that its new app was developed with parents and the relevant experts to keep our children safe. This app has parental control which you the parent must monitor and change accordingly.

Now us parents who are so busy are now required to monitor our kid’s online activity. We know that if kids are online, they inadvertently and innocuously provide rich data to lurking monsters such as pedophiles.  Facebook does strenuously protest that they will take care of your kids while online. If Facebook cannot control and prevent hate and race speech, just how are they going to manage our kid’s safety?  No, no, no! Buy Lego Mindstorms for your little ones. Or a football. As it’s the summer vacations, play with your kids and don’t give them online access so early. Facebook says no advertisements will be played on Messenger Kids. This is what they also said when they launched Facebook. And Now?  Further, while they may not push advertisements, be assured that they will use this as a hook to keep your child online.

Facebook, you not have noticed but we the netizens, have evolved as well. We evolved enough to leave you unless you recognize us as human entities not just users.  You both are still just a teenager, at 13, who we supported, encouraged and cheered all the time. Consider this a reprimand.

I am sure you, Facebook and the other 2.7 billion will never miss me. But the Butterfly Effect reminds that small causes have larger effects. All it takes is the flap, even a wave of our arms and a few pokes. And a Hashtag. Our kids depend on our wisdom. The aphoristic headline “Safety Checks, the new Facebook Messenger Kids is not safe” is my spoiler alert. Messenger Kids is bad, folk, its bad. Do not use it. Ever. 

Dr Colin Thakur is a digital activist who is committed to the dream of “one person, one connected device.” He is the KZN e-Skills CoLab Director, located at the Durban University of Technology. His areas of research include e-democracy, Social media, and unstructured big data.