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Should I let my kid use a messaging app such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, or Kik?
Parents: be aware of the pros and cons of letting your kid use messaging apps such as WhatsApp Messenger, Snapchat, and Kik Messenger. These apps are popular with kids because they offer cool features and capabilities that regular SMS texting doesn't. They can be a boon for parents because they use data so you don't have to worry about text-overage charges. But there are some downsides -- and even some risks for kids using these apps.
All of these apps require users to be 13. Common Sense believes they're better for older, more mature teens who can regulate their own usage, know how to share responsibly and respectfully, and have some savvy about digital marketing techniques. Still, you may not be able to stop your kid from downloading them (or using them on their friend's' phones), so it's best to discuss how to use them responsibly.
Here are the potential pitfalls to consider before saying yes.
You won't be able to easily check your kids' texts. If you like to periodically check your kids' texts, you won't find them in the texting log. And if you're not a regular user of the messaging apps your kid uses -- or if she's using Snapchat, whose messages disappear -- it'll be tough to find them.
Kids can really waste time on these apps. Because there's no texting max, kids can be on Snapchat, Kik, or WhatsApp all day and night.
They offer a lot more content than texts from friends. Snapchat offers a variety of news, video, and comedy clips from outlets including Vice, CNN, and Cosmopolitan. Kik offers lots of in-app purchases as well as content.
Advertising isn't always obvious. Since these apps are geared toward teens, companies find creative ways to market products, using forms that don't look like ads. Kids can unwittingly interact with content that's actually advertising -- for example, promoted chats (where users correspond with the brand), sponsored "stories" (basically video ads), and other discreet methods.
Does your kid use messaging apps?