Jeremy Hunt has hit out at Facebook after the social media giant announced it was launching a new app aimed at young children.
The health secretary said he had spoken to the company and claimed it had pledged to take tougher action to stop underage children using its network.
Posting a link to a news story about the launch, he tweeted: “Not sure this is the right direction at all. Facebook told me they would come back with ideas to PREVENT underage use of their product, but instead they are actively targeting younger children.
“Stay away from my kids please Facebook and act responsibly!”
Children under 13 are currently not allowed to use Facebook, but the company has launched a new messaging app, aimed at those as young as six – which needs parental approval before it can be used.
Others joined in criticism of the move, including Brendan Cox, widower of murdered Labour MP Jo Cox.
A Downng Street spokesperson said they had not seen Hunt’s tweets, but assumed they were an example of the health secretary “taking the lead for the government” on children’s mental health.
Hunt has previously spoken about how social media and technology companies have a role to play in tackling mental health problems among children and young people, by clamping down on online bullying and harassment.
Facebook’s new messaging app allows children to share pictures, texts and videos, but will allow parents some control over what messages are sent. It will be linked to an adults’ Facebook account.
The tech company said: “Messenger Kids is full of features for kids to connect with the people they love. Once their account is set up by a parent, kids can start a one-on-one or group video chat with parent-approved contacts.
“The home screen shows them at a glance who they are approved to talk to, and when those contacts are online.”