What Is Facebook/Facebook Gaming?
By now, a lot of parents are not only familiar with Facebook, but they may have their own account. As the most well-known social media network, Facebook has 2.96 billion monthly active users—according to a Statista report released in October 2022. Facebook usage is decreasing among younger generations with the smallest audience being teen users in the United States. While appropriate for older youth, this platform may not be appropriate for younger children. Fake profiles are common, and younger children are often the targets of cyberbullying, hacking/scamming, inappropriate content, and predatory behavior. Facebook enables users to share images, videos, articles, and status updates while connecting with others.
In 2018, Facebook also created a video game streaming hub called Facebook Gaming, which launched as its own app in 2020. Similar to Twitch (our “What Is Twitch?” guide will be posted on February 17th), Facebook Gaming allowed users to create and follow gaming content. Even though Facebook invested a lot of money into the platform, Facebook Gaming failed to gain much traction.
According to a Streamlabs report released in August 2022, Facebook Gaming only accounted for approximately 8% of the total hours of video game streaming content watched—far behind Twitch’s 77% and YouTube’s 15% of the market share. As a result, Facebook announced the closure of the Facebook Gaming app effective in October 2022, but gaming features are still accessible within Facebook. If someone does not have an account, they may visit the site to watch gaming livestreams and recorded videos, but they are not able to participate in the chat.
Online predators frequently use fake profiles to exploit young children, expose them to inappropriate content, and even try to get them to meet in real life.
- Users do not have to be “friends” on Facebook in order to send a private message, image, or voice message if the user’s settings are not private.
- Scams and phishing attempts are common on Facebook. In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission revealed that 95,000 users lost $770 million to fraud initiated by an ad, post, or message on social media.
Misinformation is rampant on Facebook.
- According to a study in Nature: Human Behavior, Facebook was the worst perpetrator in terms of spreading fake news. Facebook was the source for untrustworthy news 15% of the time.
Facebook Gaming has no age verification.
- Young children can easily access violent or sexualized gameplay.
- In the chat, children can potentially be exposed to inappropriate comments and asked to give away personal, identifying information.
What Is Messenger?
In conjunction with Facebook, Messenger is a mobile messaging app that works in conjunction with Facebook where users can communicate by text messages (sharing images and videos) as well as phone and video calls (including group video chats). In order to use Messenger, users must have a Facebook account. The app gives users the option to upload their Facebook contacts, which allows them to message and call friends—even if they don’t have their actual phone number. In 2017, Facebook launched Messenger Kids, which is a messaging app designed specifically for children between 6 and 12 years old. Children do not need to have a Facebook account, but parents can create a profile for their child and approve all contacts to verify they are only communicating with safe, trusted friends.
Users can make voice and video calling on Messenger.
- Adults don’t need a minor’s phone number in order to call, just access to viewing their profile on Messenger. However, children who receive a message from an adult they don’t know will receive an alert cautioning them about the interaction.
Chat rooms can also be created on Messenger.
- Messenger does not restrict viewing this content. When sharing the chat link, anyone—even those without Facebook—can join. Messenger rooms can also host up to 50 users.
If a child has a Facebook account, we recommend turning on all of the privacy settings. Their profile page, information, friends, location, and pictures should be set to private and only visible with friends. A simple safety rule is keeping children’s circle of Facebook friends to only real-life friends that their parents know and trust. We encourage parents to be transparent about monitoring children’s activity. The questions of “where are you going?” and “who are you hanging out with?” can be asked of any online activity.
If parents decide to allow their children to stream using Facebook Gaming or just watch other gamers play, they should have ongoing conversations about how to respond if they see inappropriate content or if a stranger attempts to contact them. Parents can make livestreaming or video chats a safer experience for children by ensuring they take place in an open space—not behind closed doors. While Facebook and Messenger are safer than a lot of online platforms, unsupervised activity can lead to several dangers, such as mental health issues, cyberbullying, anxiety, and depression.
Want To Learn More?
For more information, check out Common Sense Media’s reviews for Facebook, Messenger, and Messenger Kids. On these resources, parents can read what others think of the app and share their own thoughts/suggestions. Additional information can be found in the sources listed below.