Best and Worst Messaging Apps For Your Kids
It is a truth universally acknowledged that today’s families will eventually be in need of safe messaging apps for kids. Whether your child is just starting out with their first phone or is already a texting pro, safety is still paramount. There are so many different apps and social media platforms to choose from, which is why we’ve got your back when it comes to choosing safe messaging apps.
For teens in particular, the popular way to chat seems to change with the season. Snapchat has been the go-to app for texting and group chats for a while, and it’s certainly not very safe. So, what’s a parent to do? Here’s a breakdown of the best — and worst — messaging apps for kids. The criteria for the best apps include ease of use, cost, and the ability of Bark to monitor them for dangers.
The Best Messaging Apps for Kids
The best messaging apps for children are the kinds where you have control, which is why Messenger Kids tops our list. The hallmark of Messenger Kids is visibility on all sides so that there are no surprises. Parents can also download their child’s conversations at any time. And because the app is tied to your personal Facebook profile, you can easily add friends and family members for your child to chat with.
This is one of those messaging apps that are slightly underrated. As your kid dips their toes into the internet, one of the first things they’ll usually get is an email account. Gmail tends to top the list of best free email providers, and it also comes with all of the accompanying Google Workplace features like Chat, Drive, and more. Google Chat (formerly called Hangouts) is an easy way to message back and forth, and there’s a dedicated app for it. In addition, Google can archive Chats, so you can go back at any time and read the transcript of messages. Keep in mind that this feature can be turned off, however.
For group chatting, GroupMe is a great option. Users can sign up with their phone numbers or email addresses, and are then able to send private or group messages to other users. This is one of many messaging apps used by kids as well as college students to coordinate a group school project. One of the cool things about GroupMe is that it’s a great equalizer. it works across platforms: All you need is a device (iPhone, Android, computer, or tablet) and Wi-Fi or cellular data to get connected. One thing to keep in mind: GroupMe does have its own internal browser that kids may be able to find.
WhatsApp is a free instant messaging service that lets people with different mobile devices text, call, and video chat with each other. The app is frequently used to keep in touch with family and friends who live abroad. Users can create groups and share pictures, audio, and video messages as long as they’re connected to the internet. There is the ability to send disappearing messages, but this feature can be turned off.
The Worst Messaging Apps for Kids
If there were a “Bark’s Most Wanted List” when it comes to dangerous messaging apps, these platforms are definitely repeating offenders.
Telegram is similar in functionality to WhatsApp, but goes a step further — it adds the group chat functionality of apps like Discord. You can also use Telegram to share and store large files like TV shows or documents. Perhaps the most dangerous feature, however, is that you can find nearby users and message them. It goes without saying that this is incredibly dangerous for kids, especially considering that messages can be sent in secret mode or can be programmed to “self-destruct.” Telegram is definitely one of the dangerous messaging apps you should be keeping an eye out for.
On the surface, Kik may seem like yet another chat app similar to WhatsApp, GroupMe, or Facebook Messenger. But it relies a lot more on anonymity in its interactions. And unlike those other popular apps, Kik’s main draw is the thousands of public chat rooms filled with strangers — many of whom are adults. And when it comes to parental controls, Kik basically provides almost zero support for parents trying to protect their children. This makes it one of the least safe messaging apps for kids.
This world-famous disappearing-message app is likely well known to parents, but there’s more to it than just inappropriate photos. Drug dealers have begun using the app to contact kids to make sales, which is extremely dangerous. Even more troubling is Snapchat’s expansion into location sharing. The GPS-powered Snap Map enables friends (and potentially even strangers) to know your child’s exact location. Snapchat is one of the most infamous messaging apps on this danger list.
Discord is a popular gaming messaging platform that’s very similar to Slack. It features chatrooms, direct messaging, voice chat, and video calls. It’s a huge place for kids to hang out and talk about gaming. But it's also popular whether you’re playing Call of Duty or just hanging out after school. Unfortunately, there are a ton of “adult” servers on Discord that contain graphic and sexual content — and even potential predators.
How Bark Can Help
Bark can monitor many of the platforms listed above (even some of the less safe messaging apps for kids) and send you alerts if there’s something you need to know about. We also provide help with screen time. You can block websites and apps entirely to help protect your child, or set healthy boundaries around how often they can use them. Bark will even let you know if your child downloads a new app without your permission!
Bark is a comprehensive online safety solution that empowers families to monitor content, manage screen time, and filter websites to help protect their kids online. Our mission is to give parents and guardians the tools they need to raise kids in the digital age.