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?

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Comments

Kid, 12 years old

Remember that you can have your kids on snapchat make their account "private" so the only people that can see their posts and text are their friends.
Kid, 12 years old

ATTENTION ALL PARENTS! Apple has a thing for kids and teens where if they decide to download an app, an "app request" will be sent to their parents where they have to type in a password in order for the app to be downloaded. This helps if you don't want your kid getting these kinds of apps.
Parent written by sftechmom

Are there ways to stop kids from downloading these apps? I'd actually like to restrict our teen to texting, but am not aware of any way we could keep him from using Snapchat, WhatsApp, etc., even if we wanted to. It's so hard to monitor usage on those (is it even possible?), and they create an even stronger pull to keep him on his phone -- they feed the addiction.
Teen, 13 years old written by Reader Girl

Social Media these days can be pretty bad, but keep in mind if you don’t let your kid have any social media you may be doing more harm than good. If you control your child too much you set them up for being teased. Keep in mind your 12 year old will probably not want to sext. Just have a talk about the adult content on the app and then only let them “friend” people they know.
Teen, 13 years old written by qwertymcqwerts

I'd recommend making sure to limit your child's friends over anything. Only adding friends (or parents) may seem weird and a pain at first, but it's really a good idea in the long run.
Parent written by Amy Shaw

I don't understand why this review doesn't cover the monitoring tools you can buy and use as a parent for Snapchat.
Teen, 14 years old written by scholarlyleopard

I have to agree with what it says. These apps are a LOT more trouble then they're worth! I used them for a brief period of time, right at 13. WhatsApp and Kik have been NOTORIOUS for child predators pretending to be kids. Google the amount of trouble young kids have gotten into over it. I was introduced to a group of girls just a bit older than me on one of those apps -- not appropriate. I would say no. Snapchat, however, I think is fine. I use it a bit to keep in touch with my friend that lives in another country. The only problem with this is that if you suspect some illicit activity is going on in the future (i.e. sexting, which was a huge problem on that app a while back), it can be hard to know, as the message "expires" in 10 seconds, poof (only to be seen by the company monitoring everything later on). So I would say no, myself, to Kik and WhatsApp, but as for Snapchat, I think if you know your child and they are responsible, it should be fine. If your child has a history of not being responsible, well -- I wouldn't.