Facebook Messenger is a messaging system within which Facebook users can chat with other Facebook users. Facebook Messenger can be accessed from within Facebook as well as from a separate ‘Facebook Messenger’ app. Individuals chatting through Facebook Messenger can send messages, games, images, and media back and forth through private chats. It is important to note that while users mainly chat with their Facebook friends, they can also contact and be contacted by strangers on Facebook.
Aside from concerns of being contacted by strangers, there are several safety issues surrounding Facebook Messenger that parents and caregivers should be aware of - particularly the ability to send encrypted, secret messages on Messenger.
What does ‘encrypted’ mean on Facebook Messenger? Facebook ‘hidden messages’ are a way for users to hide their conversations entirely - even from Facebook itself. On a device logged into Facebook Messenger, children can use the ‘secret messages’ feature to encrypt their conversations, and even implement a self-destructing timer on their messages, after which their chats will be deleted.
Because these messages are encrypted on the device logged into Facebook, they cannot be viewed on any other device (even if it’s logged into the same account). Recalling that children can legally create a Facebook account as young as age 13, this means children can have entirely secret and unmonitored conversations online from a very young age. This also means that if predators or bullies send them dangerous content, it may self-destruct before a parent can collect evidence.