Marimba Chat

App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
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Kid-safe chatting with tight parental controls.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

With a parent's guidance, kids can learn how to use social networking responsibly. Parents can use the monitoring and limit-setting controls as discussion points for what and how kids will need to self-regulate when they fly solo. Marimba Chat offers a safe environment for kids to flex their social-networking wings without risk, and they can learn what messaging is good for -- and what it's not.

Ease of Play

Parent setup takes some time at first to ensure kids' safety. Once the separate accounts (parent and kid) are created, the interface is pretty intuitive.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Marimba Chat is a messaging app designed by a father and his 8-year-old daughter to give kids a safe way to chat with friends and family while providing parents options to set safe limits. To register, parents create an account with their own birth date, address, and full name. Identity is verified through a national consumer database, and then parents can create accounts for their kids, approving both incoming and outgoing friend requests. Parents can set restrictions on chat hours, monitor chats live, and review messages. It's possible that kids could post inappropriate content but highly unlikely, since kids' accounts are completely accessible to parents. Ultimately, it's up to the parent to monitor and communicate with the kid about anything questionable.

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What's it about?

With MARIMBA CHAT, kids can share pictures, chat, and leave audio messages for parent-approved friends and family members. Messages are one-on-one; no group messaging is allowed. The interface is a hybrid of texting and a social media wall, though with only one conversation appearing at a time. Parents can switch between users easily to check on what kids are doing, or they can observe a live chat. Kids have usernames, but their full names also show up on their messages. 

Is it any good?

Setting up Marimba Chat requires a bit of leg work up front for parents, but the safety features are really impressive. Since everyone messaging must have the app installed, it's best saved for close friends and family, which is really safest for kids anyway. Just reading the well-thought-out privacy policy gives a good lesson on Internet safety for kids. The app may not satisfy kids' thirst to chat long-term, but it does give them a safe way to communicate that may help prepare them for less parental monitoring later.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about reasonable and responsible chatting behavior. Be specific with kids about your expectations and restrictions: When and how much can they chat? What is appropriate information to send in a chat, and what isn't?

  • Discuss safe and responsible social networking to help prepare your kids for when you're not able to monitor every friend request and message they send. Should they accept every friend request? What should they do if a situation makes them uncomfortable?

  • Read our article Are You Spying on Your Kid? for some ideas on building a tech relationship with kids.

App details

  • Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad
  • Skills: Communication: conveying messages effectively, friendship building, multiple forms of expression
    Tech Skills: social media
  • Price: $.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Release date: December 30, 2014
  • Category: Social Networking
  • Size: 18.90 MB
  • Publisher: Marimba
  • Version: 1.0
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 7.0

For kids who love social networking

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