My kids have been using Facebook Messenger for kids since before the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020- this app is constantly rated one of the best messaging apps for kids. They use it to call me when I’m traveling without them (which is rare!) or to catch up with their aunts and uncles. Honestly, I think they mostly use it to check out the silly filters they can use during a chat or play games with whoever is on the other end of the platform.
One of my favorite things about Messenger Kids, though, is my ability to limit who the kids can contact through the platform. Kids must request new contacts be added to their Messenger accounts, and those requests pop up through mom or dad’s Facebook feed.
Alternately, kids can give friends they know codes to be added to their contact list. I love that a virtual stranger cannot access my kids via Messenger.
My oldest, though, has told me she is “too old for Messenger Kids” (I’ll spare you the eye roll that accompanied the comment. Because tweens.) and has been looking for others apps she can use to group chat with her friends on days she can’t be at school or with friends from her softball team or ice skating rink. She hates that she doesn’t have her own cell with a number she can hand out at her leisure. And this is one of the primary reasons she doesn’t have her own cell phone number… I worry about how frequently and casually she will hand it out to others.
I sat down to do some research on the best messaging apps for kids (so my tween doesn’t feel like she’s stuck in the Dark Ages with a messaging app that is so beneath her) with my trust-y internet sidekick Common Sense Media and then helped my daughter create a GroupMe conversation with her friends after we deemed this an easy alternative to Messenger.
Read out to find out the best apps for your kiddos to use to keep in touch with friends!
Google Hangouts: Anyone with a Google Email Address can access Google Hangouts. Kids can add friends, join chat rooms, share photos and more. Be wary, though. In order to best protect your kiddo on this platform, you should set up his or her access through Google Family Link. That way no can find your kiddo through a random search or a chatroom. Be sure to click “don’t accept invitations” so that kids can’t be randomly invited to connect with strangers.
FamilyApp: This is a new app that allows family to keep messages with each other all in one place. Kids can safely message grandma or cousins or mom and dad within the app. Even information such as shopping lists or birthdays can be stored and shared. This isn’t an app meant to be shared between friends, but it is an easy, safe way for kids to chat with family members near and far.
WhatsApp: I love this app because it includes an international component. You can download the app and then message with individuals as well as groups within the app. Share photos and links in one place. I set up an account and let me girls use my profile only so I can monitor their contacts. This app is great if you have friends overseas. It is also owned by Facebook and well-known for privacy. Groups can include as many as eight people.
WeChat: This is one of the most popular messaging apps around the world, but I advise to proceed with caution here. While it does enable users to chat, make voice calls and more all in one app, if you turn your location services on within the app, you are able to locate and communicate with strangers who happen to be nearby. I don’t allow location services to be accessed within this app for that reason. However, this is another great option for messaging if you have friends in other countries.
JusTalkKids: This highly-rated apps actually predates Messenger Kids and newly updated its privacy settings. However, this app isn’t free. It is $4 per month, but multiple kids can be associated with mom or dad’s phone number. Kids can access pre-approved contacts through the app and kids have fun features and games to enhance the messaging experience.
GroupMe: I’ve used this app for years and like it to be able to keep various groups I’m in separate. I can have one chat with admins of Facebook Groups that I’m in, and one with parents from my daughter’s softball team. My oldest likes this to be able to create different groups with various sets of friends that can be labeled so she knows which group is which.
What are your favorite apps for your kiddos to use to communicate with friends and family near and far?