While teens are not interested in Facebook, Facebook is still interested in them. Facebook is doing its best to draw them back in. Recently, Facebook launched a new app only for teens. I have doubts about the success of Lifestage (and this may be a subject for a future post). Where Facebook has been successful is splintering off the parts of Facebook teens love. Parents may not see them posting on their timeline but teens are active in Facebook Groups and in the Messenger App.
What is Facebook Messenger?
Messenger is like Snapchat, Instagram or Kik. The Messenger app allows people to share messages, photos, videos etc. with individuals and with groups. However, Messenger has an advantage over these other apps with the ability to better manage conversations and share with large groups of friends.
Large group conversations are a big draw for teens. On Messenger, teens can message with up to 150 people in one group chat. All members of a group can chat together in a group message, even if they are not all friends with each other and everyone is on a different device. Teens can also prioritize chats by pinning important conversations. Messenger saves all conversations and teens can search these past messages.
Messenger is a big app and getting bigger. Besides chatting with friends, users can use apps within Messenger such as Dropbox to send files or Uber to hail a cab. Not to be outdone by Snapchat, Messenger now has “secret conversations.” A secret conversation allows private messaging with a friend and each message has a self-destruct timer from 5 seconds to 24 hours.
Talking Points for a Family Discussion about Messenger
Messenger is more than texting. Kids can share a variety of content, play games and connect with other people. If a child is on Messenger, families should talk together about:
- Message Requests – Anyone on Messenger can send anyone a message. If they are not already friends, the person’s message appears under message request. User can choose whether to accept or ignore the message request. Parents should talk to kids and teens about the hazards with meeting someone online and how to vet these contacts. Families may want to add to their phone contract that if “they do not know the person in real life they should not add them to Messenger or other messaging apps.”
- Scams – Part of the reason to be careful with a message request is it could be a scam. On Messenger, cyber criminals can create a fake account or hack into an existing account. These fraudulent accounts send out messages trying to lure other users into giving them money or clicking on a bad link. Users should think critically about messages they receive even if it is from someone they know.
- Secret Conversations – Private, disappearing messages are never completely private. Friends can still take a screenshot and share it more widely. if someone sends them a private inappropriate message, kids can report it by tapping the person’s name and choosing Report. Even if the message is set to disappear, they still have a short time to report the conversation.
- Privacy Settings – If parents are looking to implement the same privacy settings on Messenger as they have on their Facebook Timeline, they will be disappointed. Messenger has few privacy settings. Kids and teens can choose not to sync contacts , report messages and block people but that is about it.
- Deleting Conversations – Kids can delete a message or conversation. However, they can only delete it on their end. It is not possible to delete sent or received messages from a friend’s inbox. Once it is sent, there is no getting it back.
- No Log Out Button – If their phone is on, Messenger is on. Kids can turn off notifications and chat for a period of time. To prevent someone from messing with their account, they need to lock down their phone.
If your teen is using Messenger or any messaging app, parents should talk about sending inappropriate pictures, making mean comments and accepting message requests from strangers. Messaging apps are fantastic for connecting classmates for a study session or planning an activity. Teens and kids need to be aware of potential problems and how to use these apps safely.