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Messenger

Messenger is a free chat app that lets you send messages, photos, videos and audio recordings, and play games with your Facebook and Instagram friends and phone contacts. You need a Facebook or Instagram account to use Messenger.

13+

Official age rating

Kids use this to...

Play

Create

Learn

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Our safety ratings

Overall safety rating:

Our overall rating for Messenger

Average

To use Messenger you need to have an Instagram or Facebook account.

Under 18s can only receive inbox messages from people who have their phone number, their Facebook friends or people who follow them on Instagram. However, they can still receive ‘Message requests’. This means that your child could be contacted by someone they don’t know on the platform. If you let your child use Messenger you should agree some rules around who they’re talking to and remind them to never accept message requests from people they don’t know.

Be aware that Messenger has a ‘Secret conversations’ feature that lets you send end-to-end encrypted messages that can only be read by you and the recipient. End-to-end encryption makes it hard to report inappropriate behaviour that takes places on the platform so you should encourage your child to not use this feature.

The platform also has a ‘Vanish mode’ that lets you send messages that disappear after they’ve been read and you’ve left the chat. If someone takes a screenshot of a message you’ve sent via this mode, you’ll receive a notification. Make sure to talk to your child about what is and isn’t appropriate to share on Messenger before letting them use it.

 

Safety features

There are no specific parental controls available on Messenger but Facebook has lots of information for users about how they can stay safe on the platform.

If someone you don’t know sends you a message, it will go into a ‘Message requests’ for you to review and decide whether you want to open it. There’s no way to stop these requests, meaning your child could still open and read a message sent by someone they don’t know. Tell your child to come to you if they receive a message request and you can block and report them together.

Facebook has a couple of safety features that can help stop you from seeing content on Messenger that might upset you. If someone shares an inappropriate or upsetting post with you via Messenger, you’ll see a hidden preview of the content and a warning. They also hide all media content sent through to your ‘Messenger requests’ folder.

Privacy & location

Messenger has a number of privacy features available which can help you manage message requests, who sees your stories and your active status. You should explore these with your child and decide which ones are appropriate for them to use.

There are also a couple of tools available that help to keep conversations private like ‘Secret conversations’ and ‘Vanish mode’. However, using these makes it harder to report inappropriate behaviour and we recommend children under the age of 18 use them.

Messenger lets you share your live location with friends on the app. Location sharing is switched off on under 18 accounts by default but we would recommend double checking this is turned off on your child’s account.

Reporting & blocking

If someone sends you something upsetting on Messenger you can report it, block the user, or ignore the conversation via a tool directly in the chat box.

We would recommend reading Facebook’s Community Standards which outline how they’re trying to keep the platform a safe space.

Content

We didn’t come across anything inappropriate while exploring Messenger. However, because it is a messaging app there is a risk your child could be sent something that upsets or worries them. There are also reports online about children receiving unwanted contact from adults.

O2 Guru top tip

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Show your child how to report and block

Messenger has reporting and blocking tools which your child can use if they receive an unwelcome message.

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Top tips for staying safe

Sitting down with your child and exploring Messenger together is a great way for you to understand more about why they want to use it and look at some of the privacy settings available that can help keep them safe.

Chat to them about the different features available such as ‘Secret conversations’ and ‘Vanish mode’ and agree some rules around which ones they can use.

Facebook has created a lot if information on how to stay safe while using Messenger. Take the time to explore this information and talk about it with your child.

Facebook, which owns Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram and Threads from Instagram, is constantly updating their privacy and safety features. So it’s important to regularly revisit their information and explore the new features with your child to make sure you’re both happy with the apps.

You should speak to your child about their Facebook friends and Instagram followers as they will be able to chat to both on Messenger.

Your child’s friends or followers will most likely be made up of friends, family and people they know from other offline activities. But sometimes kids might accept friend requests from friends of friends or other people they don’t know.

Set some rules with your child about who they can talk to on Messenger and show them how to decline follow requests from people they don’t know. You could also show them how to remove friends if they’ve already accepted a friend request.

To remove a friend on Facebook:

1) Go to profile of the person you’d like to remove as a friend.
2) Click at the top of their profile.
3) Select ‘Unfriend’ and then ‘Confirm.

To remove a follower on Instagram:
1) Tap your profile picture in the bottom right to go to your profile.
2) Tap Followers at the top of the screen.
3) Select ‘Remove’ to the right of the follower you'd like to remove, then tap ‘Remove’ to confirm.

Help your child think about what they share online and who sees it. Compare it to what they would be happy to share offline.

Use examples that are easy for them to understand: “You shouldn't give your number to somebody you don't know on the street. Is somebody online you don't know any different?”

Listen to their answers. And be positive and encouraging.

Remind them that they shouldn’t share private things, such as:

  • personal information, like names, emails, phone numbers, location and school names
  • other people's personal information
  • links to join private group chats
  • photos of themselves
  • photos of their body, such as sexual photos or videos.

If your child receives upsetting or inappropriate messages from their contacts on Messenger they might want to report or block them.

Reporting – You can report a one on one or group chat by clicking on the ‘i’ icon and selecting ‘Something’s wrong’. Facebook has more information on reporting conversations.

Blocking – You can also block a person on a one on one chat, or block a member of a group chat by clicking on the ‘i’ icon and selecting ‘Block’. Facebook has more information on blocking.

Explore these features together and talk about when they might need to use them. And remind them they can talk to you, another adult they trust or Childline about anything they’ve seen online.

If someone you don’t know sends you a message, it will go into a ‘Message requests’ folder for you to review and decide whether you want to open it. Messenger has settings to help manage who can send you these requests.  To stop unwanted contact from people your child doesn’t know, we would recommend switching ‘Message Requests’ off completely.

1)           Go to ‘Privacy Settings ‘and then ‘Message Delivery’.

2)           Choose which platform you’d like to restrict message requests on.

3)           Select ‘Don’t receive requests’.

Explain that you understand the internet is a great place to play, create, learn and connect. But remind them they can talk to you if anything upsets or worries them.

Reassure them that you won’t overreact – you’re just looking out for them.

It’s important to remind your child that they can talk you, another adult they trust, like a teacher, or Childline about anything they see online.

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Talking to your child

Having open, regular conversations with your child will help you to really understand and explore the online world together. Our tips and advice can help you start these conversations.

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