Over the past few months, social media companies have come under increasing scrutiny from media critics, watchdog groups, and US congressional committees.
Much of the criticism has focused upon how Facebook and Twitter facilitated the propagation of inflammatory messages created by Russian agents during the 2016 US presidential elections, ostensibly to polarize American voters. Self-serve advertising, “filter bubbles,” and other aspects of social media have made mass targeted manipulation easy and efficient.
Yet some are voicing deeper concerns about the social, psychological, cognitive, and emotional effects of social media–particularly as they impact children.
For example, Facebook has come under attack from an unlikely group of critics: some of its own former executives. Their comments coincide with the debut of “Messenger Kids,” Facebook’s latest product. According to reports its target audience is 6- to 12-year old children. (Like most other social media apps, Facebook does not allow people younger than 13 years old to create accounts.)
Despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent resolution to “fix” Facebook in 2018, “Messenger Kids” reveals a different agenda: to scoop up a new generation of users, habituate them to the virtual life, increase market share, and develop brand loyalty in a highly competitive marketplace. Facebook’s first president, Sean Parker, acknowledged late last year that its creators…