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Facebook's features and updates

With over 2bn active users, Facebook is still the biggest social network in the world.  The site continues to introduce new features in an attempt to stay interesting and relevant for users. Read on for information you need to know about all the latest features and changes...

Facebook Messenger Kids

The social media giant has just rolled out a preview of Messenger Kids, a new app for younger kids to video chat and message with family and friends. It's a simplified, locked-down version of the messaging app that Facebook today offers those aged 13 or over. 

How it works:

  • If two children want to be friends on Messenger Kids, that friendship has to be approved by a parent for each child.
  • Once confirmed, friends can do live video chat and send pictures and texts to each other.
  • Approved adults will also be able to communicate with the child - with their messages coming through to their usual, 13+ version of Facebook Messenger.
  • There will also be a child-appropriate library of chosen GIFS, stickers and drawing tools that they can use when communicating with others.

What parents need to know:

  • As a very new concept, this is dividing opinion and many parents are concerned about their children having access to social media under the age of 13. 
  • Messenger Kids will collect data: the child's name, the content of the messages, and usage reports for how the app is used.
  • Facebook has promised not to use this data for anything related to the 13+ Facebook.

It's still very early days, as the launch was just a preview version. We will keep you updated on any developments. 

*December 6 2017 


Facebook Stories

Following on from the success of Snapchat and Instagram Stories, Facebook users can post short video clips or photos to their very own Facebook story. These images and videos will only last for 24 hours and then they’ll disappear forever – just like Snapchat and Instagram Stories.

How it works:

  • Facebook stories is only available through the mobile app version of Facebook as it uses the phone’s camera to take videos and pictures.
  • Users can add filters and stickers to whatever they upload to their story. It also uses the location settings on their phone and can identify where they are. There is a geotagging filter, which shows others users where they are. This can easily be disabled by turning off location settings. Additionally, geotagging is optional so users don't have to use if when posting pictures or videos if they want to keep thier location private. 
  • Users can upload pictures they’ve already taken during the day to their Facebook story. They have the choice of either uploading an image to their story list (which means all their friends on Facebook.) Or they can post something directly to someone using the Direct button and it will sit in their inbox for 24 hours and disappear after that. 

What parents need to know:

  • Facebook Stories is available to all users with a Facebook profile when they are using the app.
  • Users cannot switch off or delete the feature. It sits above their news feed whenever they use the Facebook app but they don't have to use the feature if they don’t want to.
  • Whatever they post to their Facebook story is not linked to their Snapchat or Instagram Story. All three are separate.
  • Users can see who has viewed their story and vice-versa, just as they would with Snapchat and Instagram.
  • Your child can only see someone’s story if they are friends with them on Facebook.
  • Even if a person's profile is set to public, users cannot see their story until they choose to become friends with them.
  • Despite the images and videos only staying visible for 24 hours, this does not prevent people from taking screenshots of what your child posts. So it is important to consider what types of images or videos they are posting to their story. They should also ask themselves, if other people are in the picture, are they happy for it to be uploaded online?


Facebook Live

Live streaming is fast becoming the most popular way for young people to let their friends, and the world, know what they’re doing and where they are.

Facebook Live allows users to broadcast in real-time and become the presenter in their own video. Many celebrities use the feature to interact with their fans and get them to ask questions. Companies and news channels also use it to broadcast live from big events. Young people use it to talk to their friends or interact with others online.

How it works:

  • Users can stream live on Facebook using the app. They can also live stream from their computer or laptop if there is a camera connected
  • When users go live, the people on their friends list will be informed that they are currently streaming and will be encouraged to watch
  • As they are live, people can send comments, ‘likes’, hearts and other reaction emojis to show what they think of the video
  • Filters, frames and masks can be added during the stream
  • To finish the stream, users simply press END

What parents need to know:

  • Users can limit who can watch their live stream by editing the privacy settings. The default setting for all live streams is set to public, so encourage them to amend their privacy settings so their stream is viewable by just their friends or a people they may want to invite to see it. 
  • Your child can test out Facebook Live themselves by changing the privacy settings to ‘Only Me’ to get an idea of how it works without anyone else seeing it.
  • They can delete any comments they receive as they are live streaming and limit who is able to comment on their video by changing the privacy settings.
  • If your child has their location settings switched on, this may be shown in the video when they are live streaming. If they don’t want their location shown, then they'll need to turn the location settings off before going live as they can't turn it off once they're live. Remind them to always be mindful of where they are filming. The location of your child's school or home should not be posted, as streaming this may put them at risk of approaches from people they don't know.
  • Encourage your child to check that other people they are with when broadcasting live are happy to be shown.
  • Once they end their live stream, they have the option to post it to their Facebook wall for everyone to watch whenever they want, or they can delete the video completely.
  • There is software available that lets viewers record other people's live streams without them knowing. This isn't supported by Facebook and comes from third party sites that find ways of getting around the privacy settings in place. With this in mind, remind your child to be careful of what they're talking about or show. Don't give out any personal information and if they are receiving abuse in the comments, they should delete them, not retaliate and report them to Facebook.

Facebook Live Map

While users can limit who views their live stream by toggling with the privacy settings, it is worth bearing in mind that Facebook has a Live Map feature which shows live streams of people from all across the world. The videos features are ones that have their privacy settings set to public and can involve people doing just about anything. There may be a chance your child will see something they find upsetting or distressing, or you feel is too old for them, so it's important to remind them that they should stop watching it immediately and, if necessary, report it to Facebook using the normal channels.

If an adult makes contact of a sexual nature with a child online, including on any social media platform, you should report it immediately to CEOP.

Please refer to our guide to Live Streaming on our sister site Parent Info for more information on different ways people stream live online.

Take a look at our guide to Facebook’s Secret Conversations

How can I protect my personal data on Facebook?