A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Messenger is a social networking app that works in conjunction with Facebook and allows users to connect and communicate with others in a variety of ways. Users can choose to communicate through text, phone calls, video calls, voice and video messaging; by sending photos and videos; and/or by creating rooms for group video chat. The app syncs Facebook contacts, allowing users to message and call friends even if they don't have their actual phone number saved to their device. They also have the option to upload their contacts to the Messenger server by turning on the feature that allows contacts in the device to sync with the app. This feature is particularly handy for users who want to use Messenger but don't have a Facebook account. If notifications are turned on, users' phones make a sound or vibrate when they get a message, and users can see when someone else has viewed the messages they send. Notifications can be turned off, but the user remains logged in. Users can send messages to individuals privately or to groups they've created. And, if they choose, users can message Instagram contacts and receive messages from Instagram as well.
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What's it about?
Under the People tab, view your list of contacts on MESSENGER to see who has the app and who is active. Under this tab, users can tap on Create a Room, which will direct them to a screen with a sharable link, to invite friends to a drop-in video chat. Essentially, friends can drop in and chat at any time as long as the creator keeps the room open. These chat rooms can be initiated via Facebook as well. A notification will alert the creator once friends join the room if they are not actively on that screen. Users can determine who can join the chat, extending the invitation to people on Facebook or only people who directly receive the link. When using the sharable link, anyone can join the chat, even without a Facebook account. Messenger rooms can host up to 50 participants. Users can incorporate effects and backgrounds while in the room. They also have the option to share their screen with participants in the room, mimicking presentation mode.
The Chats tab has a running list of messages with the most recent at the top. Under this tab, users can also search for specific contacts, create group messages and view friends' Stories. Tap the person you want to contact, and a screen appears that includes your most recent conversations with that person, as well as messaging options. Tap one of the messaging options to communicate with friends -- for example, the phone icon to make a phone call or the microphone icon to send a voice message. Other messaging options include video calls, images from the device's camera roll, or videos/pictures taken directly through the app. Messenger offers unique filters that can be incorporated when capturing images directly through the device. The app also includes a collection of GIFs, stickers, and animated expressions that users can incorporate in messaging. Users also have the option to request or send money through Messenger. To use the Facebook Pay feature, users have to add a payment method, either a debit card or PayPal, to their account. This feature has no fees and is PIN protected. The app allows users to share their location via message. If location sharing is on under settings, users can tap the location icon in the messaging options to send a message that shows either a pinned location or live location, which remains active for 60 minutes and changes according to the sender's movement. Under secret conversation mode, users can set a timer that determines the amount of time a message is visible before it disappears. This is an all-in-one app for Facebook users who want many ways to communicate with immediacy. It also works without a Facebook account, so users can provide a name, phone number, and photo to log in.
Is it any good?
Users will enjoy the instant connection and variety of messaging options that most people want and have come to expect from social media platforms. There are layers of features in Messenger that make the app easy to use, efficient, and fun. Recent efforts to make the app safer, especially for young users, through in-app pop-up warnings make it even more appealing. Connect with individuals or groups and send text, video messages, voice messages, photos, and GIFs. Make traditional voice-to-voice phone calls or video calls. Many of the app's features are similar to those of other messaging apps such as WhatsApp. The option to link an account to Facebook Pay and request or send friends money through messaging adds a level of convenience. The integration of this feature makes Messenger more of a one-stop shop when it comes to connecting with friends. It eliminates the need to switch apps to exchange money. The location sharing feature is also handy. No need to determine an address -- just share a pinned location. No need to send friends a text if changing locations or heading to the next fun event -- the timed live location sharing feature keeps friends in the loop as you move from place to place. Another feature that adds to the app's efficiency is the rooms feature, which allows users to create group video chats. Effects and backgrounds add an amusing touch to this pop-in video hangout. The screen broadcasting feature makes rooms even more versatile, allowing participants to share their screen, similar to what can be done using apps like Zoom or Google Meet.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about teens and social media. To understand why the immediacy of messaging apps such as Messenger is appealing to teens, read Common Sense Media's report "Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives."
Talk with your teens about how the constant messaging interruptions may affect their concentration during studying and other times when focus is needed, and recommend that they use the settings to minimize distraction.
Read Common Sense Media's Social Networking Tips for safety recommendations, and advise your teen to turn off location sharing on Messenger.
- Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
- Price: Free
- Pricing structure: Free
- Release date: May 26, 2020
- Category: Social Networking
- Size: 74.00 MB
- Publisher: Facebook Inc.
- Version: 265.0
- Minimum software requirements: iOS 9.0, watchOS 4.0 or later; Android varies with device
- Last updated: November 12, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love social networking
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.