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 lets users text, voice-message, send video or photos instantly, or call contacts from their mobile devices. They also can use third-party apps, such as Messenger-specific versions of Talking Tom, JibJab, or dozens of others to send short videos, GIFs, or other creations. As of 2016, users can also use "bots" -- artificially intelligent programs that can engage through text -- to buy goods and services and use the Instant Video feature to stream one-way live video. Users' phones make a sound or light notification 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. Unless the location notification is turned off, anyone who receives a message can see on a map where the sender is. There's also an option to link Instagram contacts to your Messenger app through a "Connect Instagram" button. Once linked, contacts in Messenger can see your Instagram username. The app is updated every couple of weeks. Even without a Facebook account, users can sign up for Messenger and add contacts by entering phone numbers.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
View your list of contacts on MESSENGER to see who has the app and who is active. 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 (for example, the phone icon to make a phone call) and create and send a message. Options on the main screen include creating and pinning groups and customizing settings. This is an all-in-one app for Facebook users who want many ways to communicate with immediacy. Third-party apps are available for downloading, content creation, and sharing. It also works without a Facebook account, so users can provide a name, phone number, and photo to log in.
Is it any good?
Messenger provides the instant connection that most teens want and expect from social media -- which is missing from the original Facebook app now that messaging is being phased out. It also gives the options to share photos with only one contact, send videos, make a traditional voice-to-voice phone call (although the quality of the call during this review wasn't stellar), send GIFs, or send an in-app voice message, similar to other messaging apps such as WhatsApp. The Chat Head photo icons that appear on users' mobile devices' main screens to indicate an incoming message or ongoing conversation can be distracting, but there are a few options to limit or turn them off, and they aren't as intrusive as Facebook Home. Notifications, camera access, and location information can be disabled.
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 interruptions of, for example, Chat Heads 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.
For kids who love social networking
Our editors recommend
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.