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Messenger

Messenger is a free social media messaging app and is part of the wider Facebook group. Messenger enables Facebook members to chat and video call each other and has over 1.3 billion monthly users worldwide. The platform gives users the chance to create group or individual messages, where they can communicate via text or voice and can also share files and posts with each other. There are a range of fun effects available on the app such as the use of stickers and GIFs, and further playful features within the video call feature. Messenger has a range of privacy settings available and a designated ‘Parents portal’ for parents to explore.

Official age rating

The minimum age for Messenger users is 13, however, it does not have any rigorous age verification methods.

Messenger accounts are linked to Facebook accounts and the account settings applied in Facebook take effect within Messenger. All Facebook accounts default to a public setting, where content can be viewed by any other users on the platform. Setting a Facebook account to ‘Private’ is recommended.

Find out more about age ratings in our A parent and carer’s guide to age ratings of apps and games.

How children and young people use the app

There are many fun ways to connect with others via the Messenger app. The use of avatars, stickers and GIFs within written messages is engaging for younger users, whilst the use of playful video effects during video calls allows users to have fun when speaking with others.

Potential risks

Content

Like other messaging apps - many personal stories, messages and pictures are shared by users on Messenger that are not moderated. The best way to manage the content your child is exposed to is to ensure they are only connecting with people they know, rather than strangers. Ensure the privacy settings have been set to ‘Facebook friends’ rather than for everyone. It is also possible your child may stumble across inappropriate content in the form of bad language or mature content in their messages. By restricting who your child can access on the platform, your child is less likely to experience language or behaviour that is not suitable for their age.

Connecting with others

As Messenger is linked to a user’s Facebook account, it is important for your child to be aware of their Facebook privacy settings to help limit contact within Messenger. The app does have a message request feature if anyone that your child is not friends with on Facebook attempts to message them. This allows your child to view the message and decide whether they want to accept it.  If the content is not appropriate it can be blocked or reported straight away. However, if the user is already a Facebook friend, then those messages are received directly.

As with other social networks, it is possible for users to set up fake accounts, pretending to be someone else. Encourage your child to question whether they really know the person who has sent a message before accepting. Speak to your child about the risks of connecting with strangers and explain the importance of not sharing personal or private information within chats.

User behaviour

If your child has their own Messenger account, it is important for you and them to be aware of what they share within messages and calls, and the impact this will have on their digital footprint. Have a conversation with them to help them understand what is and is not appropriate for them to share and discuss the various ways they can protect themselves. Ensure your child knows it can be difficult to keep ownership of any content once it has been shared online, as it can easily be copied and reposted without their knowledge and can then become difficult to remove from the internet.

Design, data and costs

As with many other messaging apps, it has been designed to keep users engaged and on the platform for extended periods of time. It can be difficult for children to resist the notifications encouraging them to respond. Encourage your child to take a break from Messenger by enabling the do not disturb feature, which will stop all notifications for a set amount of time.


Tips for keeping your child safe

  • As Messenger is linked to a user’s Facebook account, many of the privacy settings are set within the Facebook account itself. However, you can access some of these privacy settings via the Messenger app.

    To manage privacy settings:

    • Select your profile picture and scroll down to ‘Privacy’ and select ‘Message delivery’.
    • For the ‘Friends of friends’ option, select ‘Message requests’.
    • For the ‘Others on Facebook’ option, select ‘Don’t receive requests’.
  • There are a few settings to help manage interactions and content. Ensure you have set the relevant privacy settings above to limit who can message you. You can ignore messages from individual users and limit who can see your stories.

    To set ‘Story audience’:

    • Select your profile picture and scroll down to ‘Privacy’ and select ‘Story audience’.
    • Ensure the setting has been set to ‘Friends’ rather than ‘Public’.

    To ‘Ignore messages’:

    • Select the conversation you wish to ignore and click on the user’s name at the top.
    • Scroll down to ‘Ignore messages’.
    • A note will appear advising you that you will not be notified if the user messages you and that the conversation will be moved to your message requests folder. The user will not be notified that the chat has been ignored.
  • You can report and block users who may be bothering you or behaving inappropriately on the platform.

    To report a user:

    • Select a message from the user your wish to report and choose the user’s name at the top.
    • Scroll down to ‘Something’s wrong’ and work through the listed options to submit your report.

    To block a user:

    • Select a message from the user your wish to report and choose the user’s name at the top.
    • Scroll down to ‘Block’. Here you have the option to block on Messenger and block on Facebook. Select both options and work through the listed options to complete the block.
  • There are limited features to help manage time and purchases in Messenger. Users can manage their notification settings to help limit screen time.

    To manage notification settings:

    • Select your profile picture and scroll down to ‘Notifications and sounds’.
    • Toggle off the ‘Show previews’ option.
    • Select ‘Do not disturb’ and choose an option from the listed times given. This will mute all notifications for the selected time period.

Key features and terminology

  • Chats

    This is the name given to your list of messages and conversations within the app.

    Group chat

    Users can create a group including other Facebook users.

    React

    When members post a message, other members of the group chat can react to that message using an emoji to demonstrate their reaction.

    Rooms

    This is a live video chat feature where you can send multiple people a link to your room within Messenger, as well as on other popular social media platforms.

    Group video chat

    This is where a group chat can all video chat live and use filters and fun backgrounds.

    Animated effects

    Users can use features such as GIFs and stickers to communicate. You can create your own stickers by taking pictures of yourself and decorating them.

    Message Requests

    This allows users to preview the message to determine whether they would like to accept and reply to the message or ignore it.

    GIFs

    As well as sending text and emojis, users can also send GIFs to their contacts. A GIF is an animated image without sound.

General tips

Keeping up to date with your child’s settings and friends on Facebook will help manage their privacy and interactions within Messenger, as both accounts are linked.

Facebook has a designated ‘Parents portal’ which is worth exploring to find out more about Facebook and Messenger.