In an attempt to get children to join and use Facebook, which will grow their network, the Menlo Park-based company has been busy testing a new hub which will be known as “LOL” that will allow kids to share and post humorous meme content.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed this news to TechCrunch on Friday and said that it had been experimenting with the “LOL” hub which is meant for kids. The spokesperson, in a statement, said- “We are running a small scale test and the concept of this hub meant for kids is in the early stages right now.”
It will be divided into categories such as “For You”, “Animals”, “Fails” and “Pranks”, “LoL” will be a special feed which will be exclusively meant to feature funny videos and GIF-like clips. The company hasn’t decided f they should name it as “LOL” or something else, and whether or not it should be a standalone app or should be made available in the main Facebook app.
A report stated- “‘LOL’ is currently in the private beta version and it has around 100 high school students who have signed non-disclosure agreements with their parental consent to do focus groups and one-on-one testing with the staff at Facebook.“
Social media experts have speculated that this move by Facebook is an attempt to get over the various data breach and privacy violation cases and to improve their growth.
On Saturday, Anoop Mishra, one of the nation’s leading social media experts, told IANS- “It doesn’t seem like a good idea to again start some specific social media platform for the tender minds that too when the content is unguided. There has been a call worldwide to limit the screen time for kids but it looks like Facebook is somehow trying to hook them onto screens even more.“
Despite having calls to withdraw such apps by experts, Facebook has decided to expand their reach of its Messenger Kids by introducing a video calling and messaging app designed for children under 13. The Messenger Kids app was launched in the US in 2017.
In 2018, more than 100 child health experts had written an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and urged him to discontinue the app.
The authors wrote- “At a time when there is mounting concern about how social media usage has been affecting adolescents’ well being, it is extremely irresponsible of Facebook to have encouraged children as young as pre-schoolers to start using a Facebook product.“
British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also went on to warn the social media giant to stay away from his children.
On Twitter, Hunt posted thus- “Facebook told me that they would come back with ideas that will prevent underage use of their product, but instead of doing what they said, they have been actively targeting younger children. Stay away from my kids please Facebook and act responsibly!”
Responding to all the backlash which Facebook’s Messenger Kids has been receiving, a top executive of the social network said that families should better be off since the video calling and messaging app has also been designed for the under 13s.
David Marcus, Facebook’s Vice President of Messaging Products said- “I firmly believe that it is a good product.”
But experts think that the app’s overall impact on families and society might likely to be negative, and this could end up normalizing social media use among young children when it creates peer pressure.
Mishra added- “With the growing incidents of child trafficking, wrong marketing messaging among the absence of proper guidelines, such new apps that are being built for kids might just be another cause of concerns for parents.”
Facebook-owned extremely photo-sharing platform Instagram currently boasts of more than a billion users very popular among teenagers. Facebook has more than 2.2 billion users globally, and this includes 300 million in India. Last year they launched a short-form video app known as “Lasso” but that app didn’t garner much attention.