Tag Archives: Facebook Messenger

Use Facebook Messenger Screen Sharing on Your Phone

By Tracey Dowdy 

Facebook Messenger now allows users to share their screens on iOS and Android mobile devices. You can online shop, browse through photos together, or scroll through social media all within Messenger’s familiar interface.

Any added features help Messenger stand out among the competition. Google Meet,  SkypeZoom, and Microsoft Teams are popular options, but some users are more comfortable connecting via Messenger, a platform most are already familiar with. Now, Messenger’s screen sharing feature lets you instantly share your screen, either in video calls with up to eight people or using the Messenger Rooms feature to chat with up to 50 people. Perhaps best of all, there’s no time limit, unlike Zoom, that cuts you off after 40 minutes unless you opt for the paid version. You can also screen share in Messenger Rooms on your desktop.

As Room creator, you can decide whether to limit the ability to screen share to yourself or make it available to all participants on the call. Messenger’s other fun features include creating a custom backgroundlivestreaming your video chats, and participating in a Watch Party from within the platform. 

To screen-share via Facebook Messenger on your phone: 

  • Open the Messenger app on your iPhone or Android device.
  • Start a video call by selecting one or more of your contacts, then tap the camera icon.
  • Once on the call, swipe up on the toolbar at the bottom (where you find the icons for hanging up or turning your mic off). 
  • From within the expanded menu that pops up, tap Share your screen. 

Now, other participants will be able to see a live view of whatever is on your screen. Your chat interface (the live video being streamed) will migrate to the upper right-hand corner of your phone, so you’ll still be able to see the other chat members while displaying what’s on your phone. 

That’s it. Facebook has made the process pretty straightforward, so even the most technologically challenged among us should find screen sharing within Messenger simple and easy to access. Have fun sharing! 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

 

 

Parents’ Guide to Facebook’s Messenger Kids

By Tracey Dowdy

Facebook introduced its free video calling and messaging app Messenger Kids with the tag, “Made for Kids. Controlled by Parents.” Targeted at kids under 13, Messenger Kids is designed to be a bridge between child-friendly devices like Leap Pads and full access to social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, or TikTok.

Kids still can’t sign up for a Facebook account. Instead, they can create one through their parent or guardian’s account. Once the account has been authenticated by a parent, kids – with a parent’s help and or supervision – can set up a mini-profile with their name (it can be a nickname) and photo (it can be a photo of anything). Kids can use the app either on their device or on yours, but remember: if you give them your phone, they’ll have access to all the photos and videos on your device. Parents can choose whether to add the child’s gender and birth date. Once the profile is complete, parents can approve any friend requests through the Messenger Kids bookmark in the main Facebook app. Messenger Kids is interoperable within Facebook’s Messenger app, so parents don’t have to download the Kids app.

To further protect their privacy, Messenger Kids users can’t be found through Facebook search, so if a child wants to chat with a friend, their parent must first friend that child’s parent, then choose to approve the friend request.

When users open Messenger Kids, they’ll see a color-customizable home screen with tiles representing their existing chat threads and all approved contacts. The interface is user friendly, making it easy for kids to jump into a video chat or text thread with their contacts. They can also block and unblock their parent-approved contacts. Good news parents – there are no in-app purchases to worry about. 

The app offers loads of kid-friendly creative tools, like fidget spinners, dinosaur AR masks, carefully curated gifs (native to the app – no external third party sites), and crayon-style stickers. “Video calls become so much more playful with AR,” says Marcus. 

Facebook won’t monetize Messenger Kids, but will automatically migrate kids to regular accounts when they turn 13. Nor will they be collecting data to remain in compliance with Children’s Online Privacy Protections Act (COPPA) law. The app also includes a reporting interface written specifically for kids so they can flag anything suspicious to a dedicated support team working 24/7.

Facebook’s head of Messenger David Marcus says, “When you think about things at scale that we do to get people to care more about Messenger, this is one that addresses a real need for parents. But the side effect will be that they use Messenger more and create family groups.”

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

How to use Facebook’s Free New Video Chat Option

By Tracey Dowdy

Never one to let the competition get too far ahead, Facebook has come up with a new video chat alternative to its competitors, Zoom, Skype, Jitsi Meet, and Google Meet. With Messenger Rooms, up to 50 people can chat in a room at once, with no time limit. Participants don’t even need an account to use the room.

Messenger Rooms offers more features than its Facebook Messenger video chat option, allowing up to 50 people on screen with no time limit through either the main Facebook app or through the dedicated Messenger one.

Zoom became especially popular in the early days of self-quarantining, but issues around security leading to Zoom-bombing soon became an issue. Facebook is no stranger to security and privacy problems. Still, in a livestream earlier this month, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company has been “very careful.” He tried to “learn the lessons” from issues users have experienced with other video conference tools over the past several months. 

Facebook also owns WhatsApp, with over 700 million accounts participating in voice and video calls every day on both platforms. In a press release in April, Facebook noted that the number of calls has more than doubled in many areas since the coronavirus outbreak began.

Facebook seems to be taking the potential security risks seriously. Messenger Rooms promises these features:

  • Locking: Rooms can be locked or unlocked once a call begins. If a room is closed, no one else can join, except a Group administrator for rooms created through a Group. 
  • Removing a participant: The room creator can remove any unwanted participants. If the room creator removes someone from the call or leaves, the room will lock automatically, and the room creator must unlock the call for others to join. 
  • Leaving: If at any point, users feel unsafe in a room, they can exit. Locking down a room prevents others from entering, not participants from leaving.
  • Reporting: Users can report a room name or submit feedback about a room if they feel it violated Facebook’s Community Standards. However, since Facebook doesn’t record Messenger Room calls, so reports and feedback will not include audio or video from the room.
  • Blocking: You can block someone on Facebook or Messenger who may be bothering you, and they will not be informed. When someone you’ve blocked is logged into Facebook or Messenger, they won’t be able to join a room you’re in, and you won’t be able to join theirs.

Make sure you have the latest version of the Facebook and Messenger mobile apps downloaded from the App Store or the Google Play Store to create a room on your phone. 

  • Open the Messenger app.
  • Tap the People tab at the bottom right of your screen. 
  • Tap Create a Room and select the people you want to join. 
  • To share a room with people who don’t have a Facebook account, you can share the link with them. You can also share the room in your News Feed, Groups, and Events. 
  • You can join a room from your phone or computer — no need to download anything, according to Facebook.

To create a room on your laptop or desktop, go to your Home Page and to the box at the top where you would usually post. Click on “Create Room” and follow the prompts to name your chat, invite guests, and choose your start time.

Currently available to everyone in the US, Canada, and Mexico, Messenger Rooms is rolling out worldwide over the next week.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Be Cellphone Ready in an Emergency

By Tracey Dowdy

Just a few weeks ago here in Northern Virginia, torrential rains swept through the area. Suddenly and with little warning, flash floods swept through low lying areas, leaving many motorists stranded and in desperate need of rescue. Fortunately, the storms weren’t severe enough to impact cell phone towers, so first responders were able to respond quickly, and there were no fatalities.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case when storms like Hurricane Dorian pummel areas with high winds, flying debris, and storm surge. Residents in storm-prone areas – whether it’s hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or other natural disasters – should remember that these conditions impact cellphone service, so they should only be a part of your emergency survival kit. Depending on conditions, it may be days or even weeks before roads are passable or relief workers and supplies are accessible. Having a waterproof plastic tote packed with emergency supplies may be the difference between life and death.

There are, however, several ways to make the most of your phone in the event of a disaster. These recommendations can help you in nearly every type of emergency situation.

First, before you lose power, ensure your phone is fully charged as are any back-up power sources like battery packs and solar generators. There are many reliable and affordable options available for Android and iPhone and many weigh less than a pound. Remember, even if you’re not using the phone, leave it powered on while awaiting rescue as emergency services can triangulate your location through nearby cellular towers but only if your phone has battery life.

If you live in an area like Tornado Alley or along the coast where hurricanes do their damage, it’s a good idea to invest in a portable power station. Approximately the size of a small speaker, you can tuck them on a shelf or under your desk, and when disaster strikes you can use them to power your devices or a small fridge to protect medications like insulin that must be kept cold.

One thing to consider is that it doesn’t matter how much back up power you have if your phone isn’t waterproof but gets wet. The latest Samsung Galaxy models and iPhones are water-resistant, but that’s not the same as waterproof. Consider purchasing a waterproof case, or at the very least, a supply of sturdy ziplock bags to protect your device. Most mobile phone plans do not cover water damage, though you may be able to claim it on your homeowners or renters flood insurance.

If during an emergency you discover you’re in an area where you don’t have coverage, or you don’t have an active cell plan, you can still reach 9-1-1 from your mobile phone. You can also text 9-1-1if you’re unable to talk or need to be silent, but you must first have registered for the 9-1-1 service with your cellphone provider. And don’t forget, you can use apps like Facebook Messenger, Google Duo, Skype, or Viber to make free phone calls over Wi-Fi – even if there’s no cell service.

Next, consider that while your phone’s GPS will work even if there’s no cell service, you’ll need to have downloaded maps ahead of time to take advantage of Google’s offline feature. Follow these directions to download Google’s own maps, or download maps from  an app like Navmii to access directions offline. Keep in mind a lack of cell service means you won’t get real time updates on situations like traffic and accuracy may be affected since cell phones used GPS-A (assisted) technology to communicate with satellites, and physical factors like tunnels, mountains, or tall buildings may cause interference.

It’s also a good idea to download emergency preparedness apps before disaster strikes. The Red Cross has several excellent apps, including a Shelter Finder app, First Aid, Hurricane app, Earthquake, Wildfire, as well as First Aid for pets as well as people. Each of the apps includes checklists, advice, and instructions on what to do when disaster strikes. Their all-inclusive Emergency app allows users to monitor over 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also has an app that sends real-time alerts for natural disasters in your area plus four additional locations, provides emergency tips for over twenty different situations, identifies nearby emergency shelters and disaster recovery centers where you can speak with FEMA personnel face to face.

 Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Facebook Rolls Out Messenger 4

Facebook has given Messenger a Face-lift – terrible pun fully intended.

Even if you haven’t refreshed the app recently, you’re seeing the updated version, called Messenger 4. Facebook rolled the changes out server-side, meaning the move is “automatic,” and you can’t avoid it by avoiding or delaying the update.

It’s had mixed reviews, which isn’t surprising. Any time an app changes its interface, some die-hards hate it and early adopters who love it. The first thing you’ll note is the display – it’s very, well, white. They’ve removed Facebook’s signature blue bar from across the top, and they’ve de-cluttered the bar at the bottom. Now, users will see only three icons – a speech bubble for Chats; two figures for People, and a compass needle for Discover. The top of the screen displays your profile picture, the category you’re in, the camera and the conversation icons. Just below the top bar is the familiar app-wide search option, followed by Facebook’s “Stories” options and Stories from your contacts. Your most recent conversations list is in the middle, as it’s always been.

Chats hasn’t changed much – it’s still the place to carry on conversations and make audio or video calls to your contacts. What is new is the option to choose chat colors. Go to your settings to change the display colors making it easier to identify specific groups at a glance. More features are promised, though Facebook hasn’t said what exactly we can expect. The People category is where you can look for friends, view their stories, and see who’s currently active. Users can start the conversation with a “wave” by tapping the hand icon to send a hello. Discover is where you can chat with businesses, access customer support, play games, and search for news and current events.

So far the biggest complaint seems to be that the app is too bright – all that white background and negative space is hard on the eyes. In response, Facebook has announced a “Dark Mode,” but there’s no word on when users can expect it to roll out, nor do we know if it’s going to come in an update or rolled out server-side like the new design.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.