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7 Popular Apps That Include Chat Features Parents Should Know About

Words by
Jake Cutler

FEB 07, 2024

7 Popular Apps That Include Chat Features Parents Should Know About

Chat features have become a staple in many apps used by kids, including some we might not necessarily think of as messaging apps.

Below, we cover seven popular apps that include chat features. Some are dedicated chat apps with robust communication features, others only include chat as a secondary feature but still open the door to potential dangers parents should be aware of.

1. BeReal

BeReal Logo

BeReal was initially launched in 2020 but didn’t gain popularity until 2022. It is a social media app that encourages users to share one unfiltered photo per day at a random time.

Despite being relatively new, the app has gained popularity among teens and young adults for its authentic and spontaneous approach to social media.

BeReal Chat Features

BeReal isn’t commonly considered a chat app but it does allow users to send direct (private) replies to friends’ photos, which include front-and-back camera photos. 

Messaging Risks on BeReal

The private messaging capability creates potential for a child sharing personal information or images, which could lead to grooming or sextortion. It’s a good thing that private messaging is only available between “friends” on the app, but if a child accepts a connection request from a stranger on the app then there is potential for that stranger to communicate in harmful ways.

2. Chess

Chess App Logo

People have been playing chess for hundreds of years — and playing chess on smartphones since about the time smartphones were invented. There are a lot of different chess apps available but most of them allow in-game messaging and the ability to play with users all around the globe.

Chess Chat Features

Most chess apps allow in-game messaging where users can chat with opponents as they play.

Chess App Chat Risks

Most chess apps don’t include open chat rooms but they do allow private messaging between any two users engaged in a match.

Because most chess apps don’t include age restrictions, that means anyone (of any age) from around the globe could challenge your child to a match and then have the capability to privately chat with them.

3. Discord

Discord was originally created as a communication tool for gamers in 2015, but has since expanded to become a popular platform for all types of communities.

It currently has over 250 million users worldwide and is commonly used by gamers, streamers, content creators, and even businesses.

Discord Chat Features

Discord allows direct and group messaging with text, voice, and video chat capabilities.

Discord Chat Risks

Discord can function as a live streaming app with few content limits. That means the potential for grooming, cyberbullying, sextortion, and exposure to explicit content.

4. GroupMe

GroupMe was created in 2010 by a group of students at the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon. Since then, it has gained popularity as a convenient way to simplify communication across various social circles. GroupMe currently has over 12 million users and is commonly used for group projects, event planning, and social gatherings.

GroupMe’s Chat Features

GroupMe allows group text messages and direct messages, including photo and video sharing. 

GroupMe Risks

What makes GroupMe popular — it offers a lot of messaging features for free — is also what opens the door to potential dangers. GroupMe doesn’t offer parental controls or parent monitoring. (There is a setting that allows users to block contacts, which you could use to prevent people from contacting your child or adding them to group chats.)

The lack of parental control features and the wide range of messaging capabilities means there is potential for children to be exposed to inappropriate content or to engage in other forms of dangerous online communication.

GroupMe was an app commonly requested by Gabb customers because it is often used to organize/facilitate group activities (e.g. sports teams, youth groups, study sessions). After careful review, Gabb made GroupMe available for parents to add to a child’s Gabb Phone 3 Pro. This and other third-party apps can only be enabled by a parent through the parent portal on their own device.

As always, parents should consider all the features of an app — together with the tech-maturity of their own child — before deciding to give a kid access to it. 

At the end of the article we offer some suggestions on how to weigh out the risks and benefits of these apps to give parents ideas on how to best make that decision for their kids.

5. Instagram

Instagram was founded in 2010 and quickly gained popularity for its user-friendly interface that made it easy to share photos and videos with friends and followers.

Today, it is owned by Meta and has over 1 billion active users worldwide, making it one of the most popular social media platforms globally.

Instagram Chat Features

Instagram’s main feature is a feed-style view but the app also allows for direct messages, disappearing messages, and group chats — including video chat options. 

Instagram Chat Risks

Given the ability for private and group messaging with photos and video, Instagram carries the potential for kids to be exposed to explicit content, online predators, cyberbullying, and more.

In fact, Instagram has recently been in the news for allegations of facilitating child exploitation. And its parent company, Meta, has a decidedly less-than-stellar track record for keeping kids safe.

6. Pinterest

Pinterest has been around since 2010 and has become a popular platform for users to browse and save images, recipes, articles, and more. It has a predominantly female user base and is known for its highly curated content.

Chat Features On Pinterest

Pinterest is primarily a visual discovery engine but does include messaging features: users can send Pins, messages, and create group boards. Pinterest’s teen safety features help restrict some risks for kids but dangers still persist.

Chat risks that are mitigated by teen settings include: comments on Pins are turned off for users under 18 and boards and Pins are private for all users under 16. Please note, however, that age verification is easily bypassed by inputting a false birthdate when setting up a Pinterest account.

Pinterest Chat Risks

While Pinterest’s chat features have some teen safety settings in place, there are still potential risks for kids using the platform, such as receiving unsolicited messages or being exposed to inappropriate content.

7. WhatsApp

WhatsApp was created in 2009 by two former Yahoo employees and quickly gained popularity for its simple interface and free messaging capabilities.

It is now owned by Meta and currently has over 2 billion active users worldwide, making it one of the most popular messaging apps in the world.

WhatsApp Chat Features

WhatsApp allows for one-to-one and group texting, voice messages, photo/video sharing, and video calls.

WhatsApp Chat Risks

WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world because it offers pretty much all the bells and whistles.

That means it opens kids up to some serious potential risks: unmonitored photo/video messaging and video calling brings the potential for graphic and objectionable content, grooming, and sextortion. Group texting opens the door to cyberbullying. 

How to Navigate App Decisions

young boy begging his mom for apps on a cell phone

Staying informed about the apps your children use and the features these apps offer is a big part of creating a safer digital environment. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

In some cases, kids will ask for apps you know they aren’t ready for. In others, they’ll ask for apps you aren’t familiar with or that you aren’t certain they have the maturity to handle.

One tip you might consider is to always respond to an app request with, “let’s talk about it.”

Below are some useful considerations to include in those types of conversations.

  • Encourage critical thinking about the personal information they choose to share.
  • Engage in regular discussions about whom your child communicates with and reinforce the importance of not sharing phone numbers with unfamiliar people.
  • Show interest in your child’s creative pursuits on apps while discussing the importance of limiting personal details in shared content.
  • Set clear guidelines for connecting with known friends only and periodically review your child’s followers and followed accounts. Advocate mindful sharing and the impermanence of ‘disappearing messages.’
  • Guide your child in understanding group dynamics and responsibly sharing information, photos, and videos.
  • Discuss the importance of mental health when engaging with online communities and set up appropriate privacy settings together.
  • Encourage use of the app’s age verification features and share strategies for keeping text messages respectful and safe.

Alternatives for Kids Who Aren’t Ready for These Apps

If you don’t feel your child has the tech-maturity to safely handle private messaging, wait. You’ll likely feel pressure from your child or even from other parents but trust your gut.

Fortunately, parents now have safe-tech options that allow them to say no to some tech without saying no to all tech. Consider introducing your child to the world of technology in steps tailored to them. This allows you to expose them to the best of our digital world without also exposing them to all the worst.

Gabb phones, for example, come standard with Gabb Messenger. It’s a safe messaging app that provides kids with enough autonomy to build crucial digital communication skills but with 1) smart filtering that prevents dangerous content from reaching them and 2) parent monitoring that allows you to review questionable messages and have important conversations with your kids as needs organically arise.

For older kids or teens who are growing in maturity and need access to 3rd-party apps for school, extracurricular activities, or work, our new Gabb plans give parents the option to add Gabb-reviewed apps to a Gabb device. (In fact, one of the apps covered above — GroupMe — is on that list.)

It’s an approach to tech that flexes according to a kid’s unique needs so they can enjoy a custom, safe tech journey.

What Do You Think?

Did we miss any apps you had questions about? What worries you most about chat capabilities on the apps your kids are asking for? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

  • Brielle Irwin on Feb 10, 2024 11:05 AM

    Your blog post was really enjoyable to read, and I appreciate the effort you put into creating such great content. Keep up the great work!

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