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Cellphone Parenting

Can you recommend a messaging app that's safe for kids?

If your kids are curious about messaging apps such as WhatsAppKik Messenger, and Snapchat, you may be wondering whether to say "yes" or wait a bit. These apps are super popular with kids because they offer richer experiences than regular SMS texting. Kids can collect points to trade for stickers and emojis, stream additional news and content, play games, and even gain access to other chatting apps with different (not always age-appropriate) functionality. They also typically have built-in scan codes that let kids trade contact information and other data quickly. But these apps have tons of risky features, from location settings to chatting with strangers, that make them better suited for social-media-savvy teens rather than tweens. 

And it's not just the safety issues that make messaging apps a risk for young users. Most apps are designed for kids over 13 because of the way they track users' data. The Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA) forbids online companies from knowingly collecting data and using it for marketing purposes on users under 13. So when younger users fake their birth date to gain access to these apps, their data -- including things like location -- is being tracked as though they were older. New ways of tracking data are being invented all the time -- compounding the risks to young users. In addition to the standard display ads and in-app purchases, many companies are testing new marketing methods that meld advertising and content, such as Kik Messenger's "promoted chats" (in which brands text with users). So while many tweens and young teens want to get the latest cool app such as TikTok (and in fact, many do ignore the rules), they're not supposed to (and they can get kicked off the platform when their real age is discovered).

Though your tweens may be begging to "age up," it's really better to delay until they're old enough to handle the extra features. Try to steer them into one of the excellent programs designed for users under 13. And if you allow kids to use them, make sure you discuss responsible social media rules.

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Kid, 9 years old

Some tweens use Whatsapp, it isn't safe. I like Messenger Kids and JusTalk Kids
Kid, 10 years old

messanger kids is what i have your parents control all of your contacts which makes it safer. so yeah
Kid, 11 years old

A good idea is LINE it’s free, easy to use but you need a phone number to create an account. You can just use your parents phone number.
Kid, 10 years old

Hello! So maybe the apps provided are recommended for teens and up, but Facebook made an app for kids. It’s just Messenger but it’s for kids. Download the app Messenger Kids, the pro is: They don’t need to make an account so the setup is much more faster and easier. I have never tried it but I would recommend it.
Teen, 13 years old written by zcutegirl

Hi! i know i'm only 13 but how can children stay safe when grown ups can get on the same thing , and they can send things like u know what. That's all what i have to say contact if u can.
Kid, 10 years old

I’m 10 and text my friends on TextFree and TextNow they have limits and parental controls. And you make a phone number at the beginning so random people can’t text you unless you have them your number! So good I haven’t had any problems with it!!!!
Adult written by MadisonStreet

Any thoughts on Monster Messenger? Also, I gave my 7 yr. old son an old (ancient, really) iPhone 3. Any messaging apps that could be installed on such an old device?
Kid, 11 years old

As a tween who is almost 12 I have an Samsung Tablet (Android). I have an email and I use "Google Hangouts" To Communicate with my friends and Family. A Reason this is a good app is because you can easily get your friends Email and add them to your contacts on the app and it's not easy to text random people because it requires their Email or Phone Number. Another thing is Parents can easily monitor this app. Even if a person is blocked or Archived or the history is deleted, you can still view who you have texted or been texting. Another good thing is you can call and video call your friends and family. I don't have a phone so the call feature helps me communicate with my parents. Another fun "Social Media" App is Popjam. You can create post very close to Social Media but you cannot share Personal Information or Pictures of your friends, you can still post drawings and pictures of other things, just make sure to cover their faces. You can also comment on eachothers posts and make new friends but it filters everything you publicly chat. I hope this helps!
Parent of a 11-year-old written by Christopher M.

I would like to allow our 11 year old daughter to communicate via text with her close friends fairly privately. She is able to talk to her friends privately at school, so I don't see any reason she shouldn't be able to do that via text. My issue is that the messaging that she has been doing with a friend (who has a cell phone but no phone number) has been through Pinterest and I don't want her to have that on her phone. The boards themselves have mature material fairly easily accessible, some of which I wouldn't mind her exploring if we were beside her to guide her. With no guidance however, it feels somewhat toxic. So we could do one of the messaging apps, but you sort of run into a similar problem as our experience has been that links and posts get exchanged that are again, mature, and require parental involvement. Long story short, is there a messaging app for young people that is bare bones (no photos, links, etc.) and which does not require a cell number to use? Thanks in advance for any guidance.
Kid, 10 years old

Yes try TextFree!!!! It fits what you’re looking for I use it a lot to text my friends!
Kid, 11 years old

Sorry I'm late! All I can say is that I'm not sure if there's an app you can't send links on, but she is more likely to find links on Pinterest than an app where she can chat privately. If her friend frequently sends links with mature content on them, she'll likely see them when she's with her friend in person too, which isn't great, but I don't know any apps where you can't send links - messaging apps are probably more link-free, but she'll get links in most of the ones mentioned.
Kid, 10 years old

I don't recommend some social media texting thing whereas privacy is a concern. I reccomend tweens to stick with hangouts or IMessage. WhatsApp May be a little to much for a bunch of tweens. :P Hope it Helped,
Parent of a 16-year-old written by Fred L.

Our daughter has had a phone for the past eight years. I'm also a mobile software developer. Hands down, THE BEST app for this is MMGaurdian. They have a dedicated messaging app which will allow you to control who they text, will send you alerts based on keywords, and, of course, provide reports with the entire conversation. Using this feature, along with MMGaurdian's ability to block OTHER messaging apps, is a perfect combination.
Teen, 13 years old written by gabeb

i use jott. you can add people from your school and you can only text each other if you have each other added and it's really nice. you can text using only bluetooth if you are within 100 feet of each other which comes in handy.
Kid, 12 years old

This may be of no help to you but things like Kik are private and you only talk to them if accepted request. Also, it is only inappropriate if they welcome that or are inappropriate.
Parent of a 12-year-old written by Jeanine L.

I have a daughter that is 12 I found out that she has been hanging out and texting Instagramm sending photos and inappropriate texts I went through her phone the best way I knew how bc this is all new for me and found some very disturbing things I wiped out her phone and had her number changed. I would like to be more educated on how to check her phone the best I can with out her trying to hide anything from me please help me try to do that with any information that you can send or give me. I found out by my older daughter that is 25 and has all ready moved out out the family home and is in another state that there is a app that looks like a game but you can send pictures and text through it without your parents knowing. If there is anything that you think I can benefit from please send it or call me text me I'm very desperate to find out if she is still doing stuff on her phone that I do not approve of. Thank you very much
Parent of a 9, 11, and 12-year-old written by RustyAD

It depends on what type of phone (iOS vs Android) you're daughter is using. Just remember that for every measure you take somewhere there is a countermeasure. If she (or her 'friends') are determined to undermine you then they will find and use the 'countermeasure' and defeat whatever you have in place. A combination of building trust, having conversations about the horrific dangers, and monitoring are the best you can do to mix with any software tools/measures. The thing we tell our two daughters (9,11) and son (12) is that the blocking/restrictive type measures we have in place are not because we don't trust them. We stress that we DO trust them, but it's the horrible people out there lying and pretending to be someone they're not who we don't trust....and they shouldn't either. I showed them some news articles of kids who were never seen again after their 'online friend' found them or met them. You need to have that trust built up so whenever there is any thing suspicious she will come to you first. With all this in mind, there are several parental monitoring tools you can use. I don't know a lot about iPhone's or the apps for it but if you talk to Apple (at a store or call them) or your phone carrier they can probably assist you. With Android, you can still talk to the carrier for help. I do know on Android there are several apps that allow you to lock out other apps so they're only accessible with a password. One app to lock out would be the Settings app and the PlayStore app. This way nothing can be installed or uninstalled. Locking out the Settings app will prevent anyone from going into the settings and enabling 'Developer Options'. With this enabled one can turn on the option to install apps from unknown sources (as in not from the official PlayStore), also known as 'side-loading' apps. That's a pretty basic measure but it will at least prevent a problem app from being used or installed. It will also stop the removal of any monitoring apps you might install. Reply back to this if you need extra help. We haven't given our kids mobile phones yet. So far they just have a KindleFire each but there's still dangers there. Games have in-game chatting for instance, and there are the chat apps like kik, textme, textfree, ect. So far we just have them on TextMe and have only seen a couple of texts that were truly wrong number instances.
Adult written by KatBer

TextMe -- does it have privacy settings? It looks pretty open to anybody. Your kids can use it on their kindle fire?
Parent of a 8-year-old written by AngadR

There's another app called Roo Kids App. I thought the idea was great but the execution needs a little more work. I emailed their support team and they said that they're working to improve the app. Let's see what they come up with.
Teen, 13 years old written by JeffJr

Skype, iMessage ... I think any app is good because if you are worried, you can always check their phone. You can say every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I will check your messages to them.
Parent of a 9, 10, 14, 18+, and 18+-year-old written by stephanieda

Some recommendations for Android would be helpful. I use SafeChat and it is very limited and hard to work with. It's fine for the family texting, but hard to add friends I approve of.