Social networking and messaging apps

Alongside YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram, there are a number of apps that children use to intereact with each other and share their lives online. Get advice on what these are and which apps you need to be aware of.

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What are the potential risks of social messaging apps to young people?

Social networking and messaging apps allow young people to maintain social relationships with school friends, distant friends or online friends they’ve never met. However, there are some important safety issues that it’s worth knowing as a parent.

Chatting with strangers

Meeting and chatting with strangers online poses risks to young people who might be vulnerable to grooming and online (and offline) forms of sexual abuse.

Sending inappropriate content

With the physical barrier of a screen, some people feel more empowered to pressurise others into sending messages, often of a sexual or derogatory nature.

Sharing a location

Many apps work on the basis of identity or phone number information. In many cases apps don’t always let you know that this information is being used, meaning children could be sharing personal information. As well as on the social networks themselves, privacy and security settings are available on most devices. You can find out more at our Privacy & Identity Theft advice hub.

Sharing information

Many apps work on the basis of identity or phone number information. In many cases apps don’t always let you know that this information is being used, meaning children could be sharing  personal information. As well as on the social networks themselves, privacy and security settings are available on most devices.

Cyberbullying

Smartphones allow people to take photos and share them instantly on their social networks or post  information about someone online in seconds. Sometimes this can mean young people are even more  vulnerable to episodes of cyberbullying.

Distortion of Body image

With the rise in popularity of photosharing apps such as Snapchat and Instagram children  increasingly feel under pressure to conform to the body beautiful images they see so, it’s  important to talk to promote positive body image and help children develop a critial thinking to  question what they see online.

See our top tips guide to tackle social media concerns

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Get tools and tips to support your child’s digital wellbeing on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

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Top social networking and messaging apps popular with children

We’ve compiled a list of the most popular social networking and messaging apps that children are using and the potential risks they may expose children to. You’ll also find links to relevant safety pages or independent third-party articles and opinions with further information about specific apps.

YouTube app

YouTube is a social video platform that allows young people to not only watch videos from their  favourite YouTubers or vloggers but also share comments with each other about what they are watching. With so many people at commenting, liking and created content for their own channels,  it has become one of the biggest social networking platforms around the world with over 2 billion active users.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 13

Instagram

A photo-sharing app which allows you to edit photos and videos, upload them and share them to  other social networking sites. Photos and videos can be sent directly to friends.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 13

TikTok

TikTok is a popular social networking app that allows users to create, musical clips and short clips up to 60 seconds and add special affects to them.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 13

Facebook

The Facebook app allows you to share personal information, status updates, pictures, videos and chat with a network. The GPS feature is worth understanding – ‘Nearby Friends‘ allows you to see  your friends’ current locations on a map.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 13

Facebook Messenger

The Facebook Messenger app is a free messenger app that connects with the Inbox in Facebook and  allows users to share photos, videos, audio and can be used for group chats.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 13

Snapchat

Snapchat is a photo-sharing app where users can send photos or videos to their friends. These will display on screen for up to ten seconds before being deleted, although it is possible to screenshot messages and use other apps to capture the content. Snapchat could be used for messages of a sexual nature or also mean messages. Learn how to set privacy settings with our “how-to” guide.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 13

WhatsApp

Free-of-charge, real-time messaging. You can share images and videos, take part in ‘group chats’ and share locations. You can only message someone if you already know their telephone number.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 16

Twitter

The Twitter app works in a similar way to the desktop version of Twitter, except that when you  tweet you can also post the location of where you’re tweeting from. The Safety Centre for parents can help with any questions or concerns.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 13

Discord

Discord is a free voice and text chat app that is often used by young people to communicate with others while gaming online and streaming live video. Known as ‘skype of gamers’ it helps players  to communicated with each other through private servers that enable voice, video and text.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 13

Telegram Messenger

Telegram is an app available on both mobile and desktops, allowing free and safe messages for the sender. Like WhatsApp, the app encrypts messages and gives you the ability to destroy them if unwanted.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 16

Apps for meeting new people that might create risks

These apps have gained a reputation for being potentially risky for children because of the types of technology they use and the types of communities that have formed around them.

Tumblr

The app version of Tumblr allows users to post, share, and read other users text and image blogs. Although Tumblr have blocked blogs related to eating disorders, self-harm and suicide, between 2-4% of Tumblr’s content is pornographic.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 13
Risk: Exposure to inappropriate content

Omegle

The omegle app is a Free online chat site that is used to talk to strangers through a webcam.
Like Chaftroulete, the app randomly pairs users with each other for anonymous one-to-one chats.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 13

Risks:  Exposure to sexual content and other types of inappropriate content

MeowChat

MeowChat’s distinctive look includes cartoon cats and allows users to send texts, images or audio clips. It encourages chatting with ‘like-minded’ strangers based on the user’s location at any time. Chatrooms can contain bad language and invitations to private chats with strangers.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 18

Risks:  Exposure to sexual content and other types of inappropriate content

Yubo

Yubo is a messaging app that allows its users to send text and photos to others and live stream with friends and ‘Anyone’ on the app. Users can choose to engage with the feeds of others within a certain radius of themselves. It’s been called “Tinder for kids”: Users are invited to swipe right on profiles they like and swipe left on profiles they don’t. The app is deemed dangerous for teenagers to connect with strangers.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 13
Risks: Connecting with strangers, inappropriate content

Chatroulette

The app version of Chatroulette has the same functionality as the desktop version, allowing video interactions between randomised strangers. The user has to log in and there is some (human and computerised) moderation/filtering for inappropriate content, but children may not know who they are talking to.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 18
Risks: Connecting with strangers, inappropriate content

Monkey App

Like Chatroulete, the Monkey App randomly pairs users together from across the world for a quick video call and if users like each other they can add time to their video call or connect on SnapChat.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 17
Risks: Connecting with strangers, inappropriate content, Anonymity

Online dating apps to be aware of

Grindr

Aimed at bisexual and gay men, the Grindr app uses location and photos to encourage ‘like-minded’ meetings between strangers. Grindr introduces users to ‘matches’ within the closest geo-radius. Grindr is intended for over-18s, and asks the user to verify their age when signing up, however teens could use it regardless.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 18

Risks:  Exposure to sexual content and other types of inappropriate content

Meetme

Meetme app allows users to chat and meet new poeple on it’s platform. It is often used to meet flirt and connect with strangers that you may not know in real life.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 18

Risks:  Exposure to sexual content and other types of inappropriate content

Tinder

Through swiping left or right on a user’s photo, the Tinder app allows people to choose who they’d like to meet up with. As it’s location based, Tinder introduces users to ‘matches’ closest to them. Tinder’s minimum age is 18.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 18
Risks: Connecting with strangers

MyLOL

MyLOL is a ‘teen dating app’ aimed at 13-20 year olds. The network is moderated and key word detection is in operation. Following criticism, an upper age limit came into effect, however it has been reported that those older members with accounts registered before the change still have active accounts.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 13
Risks: Connecting with strangers, inappropriate content

Social media apps made for children

Although the majority of social media apps have a minimum age of 13 and over, there are a number of social media apps and tools that are made for those under 13. These can help your child learn how to interact with their friends online in a safer environment so they’re well prepped to use the larger social platforms when you feel they’re ready.

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