Kid-friendly video chat apps

By: Neil Mitchell

How to use them safely and responsibly.

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Gone are the days when virtual meetings were only for business. From online schooling to family and friend hangs, kids are using video chat apps more than ever. According to Magid’s COVID-19 consumer impact study , teens’ use of video chat apps has increased 64% since the coronavirus outbreak began.

Whether you’re just trying to get your head around the technology or you have privacy concerns—having heard stories of uninvited chat session drop-ins known as “bombing”—think through the following questions to make sure the app is safe for you and your family.

Someone’s invited me to a video chat. Do I need an account?

Most major services, like Zoom, BlueJeans by Verizon, Skype and FaceTime, don’t require an account to join a video chat. Creating invitations and hosting meetings generally requires an account and login. Having an account provides an additional layer of security and access to safety features outlined below.

What can I do to help keep my kids’ video chats secure?

Video chat apps require that users be at least 13 to have their own account. In addition to this requirement, consider video chat apps to be kid-friendly when privacy controls are in place. Look for video chat apps that have these basic privacy setting options:

  • Guest moderation: The ability to admit users allows the host to confirm that only invited and acceptable parties are welcomed into the chat.

  • Lock meeting: This prevents other users from attempting to join the video chat.

  • Passwords: Requiring a password to enter the video chat will keep others from bombing your video chat or conference.

  • Disable/block participants: Momentarily disabling or permanently blocking certain participants can help keep your kid’s calls private to a controlled group.

  • Sharing controls: Controls within video chat apps generally allow management of who can share screens and files, limiting attempts to disrupt calls with unwanted or inappropriate content.

If you have any other specific privacy needs or concerns, there are generally “Privacy” or “Security” settings options that vary by app.

Teens’ use of video chat apps increased 64% since the coronavirus outbreak began, according to a Magid study.

How can my kids use video chat apps more effectively?

  • Mute participants: Not for being rude to your chatmates, the “mute” button helps block unwanted noise and reduce interruptions. Putting those not speaking on mute can be helpful for large calls in which one person or a small group is leading the conversation.

How can my kids have more fun with them?

  • Backgrounds: Take a look at the background options. Even if you’re stuck in the house, you can look like you’re speaking from outer space or an imaginary world.

  • Fun filters: Some platforms, like BlueJeans by Verizon and FaceTime, allow effects and filters in case you need to lighten things up by giving your video image a dog nose or butterflies.

When talking with your kids about using video chat apps, keep three things in mind: Ideally, use apps that require an account, can control who and what comes in, and have changeable privacy settings. Most importantly, have fun!

Need help talking about online safety with your family? Grab a pen and download the Family Online Safety Agreement, and write the rules together with some expert help from the Family Online Safety Institute.

About the author(s):

Neil Mitchell is media consultant, focused on digital and online safety. He has been working with Verizon on online safety issues for over a decade.

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