Best and Safest Videoconferencing Apps for Kids
Video chat apps have essentially become a part of every kid’s existence. My 8-month-old baby video chats/babbles with grandmas and grandpas (and uncles, and cousins, and honestly, it’s too much) every weekend on Zoom, and I’m guessing your kid does too. it’s only going to get worse as my kid gets older, isn’t it?
Thankfully, there are some really impressive video chat apps that cater especially to kids and parents. These are the best video chat apps for kids that will keep them protected and entertained.
Facebook Messenger Kids: Best parental controls
Control when and how your kid uses the app
- Parental approval requirements
- Sleep mode
- Facebook baggage
What we like
Facebook Messenger is one of the best video chat apps for kids. It was made with kids in mind and comes with lots of features you can easily control from your Facebook account.
Parental approval requirements
Imagine the Facebook Messenger app, but pretend that it went through a Lisa Frank filter and you’ve got Facebook Messenger kids. It’s a more colorful, kid-friendly version of the Messenger app that’s intended for kids aged 6–12. The parental controls really impress on the Facebook Messenger Kids app, especially the ability to monitor your child’s contacts. Let’s do a short role-play of what the exchange will look like when your kid wants to add a contact to their Facebook Messenger Kids account.
Child: Mother, Father, I would like to formally request the privilege of adding my friend Clancy to my Facebook Messenger Kids app.
You: Hmm . . . I’ve heard about this Clancy fellow. All right! I’ll allow it. Here’s the code you need.
Child: Bless you, parents.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all of our child-parent interactions went down like this?
As the parent on the Messenger Kids account, you have control of a passcode that your child can send to friends to add them as a contact. The friend enters that passcode and voilà, your kid and their friend can chat. As long as you vet the person your child wants to add to their account, you won’t need to worry about randos sneaking into your child’s contacts.
Setting up your kid’s Facebook Messenger Kids account and approving their contacts is really easy for parents.
Sleep mode feature
You also can add Sleep mode features that set timers for when your kid is allowed to use the app. No more late nights of your kids talking to friends instead of, you know, sleeping.
What we don’t like
Facebook comes with some baggage, mainly of the data privacy and social anxiety sort. Facebook will have your child’s account info and will advertise to them on the app. Likewise, getting your child into the Facebook world might introduce some new forms of social anxiety. If you can help your child through those potential issues, the Messenger App for Kids is easily one of the best video chat apps for kids.
JusTalk Kids: Best features
Talk or chat for hours in a friendly social environment
- Free without ads
- Memories folder
- No account linking
What we like
JusTalk Kids doesn’t come from a big company like Facebook or Google, but its focus on video chat features for kids without ads is really impressive.
Free without ads
JustTalk Kids is a standalone video chat app designed for kids. It comes with most of the features that you would expect, like passcode protections, parent approval process for adding contacts, and even a fun doodling feature. What are the chances your kid draws a fake moustache on you when you use the app to chat with them? 1000%. All of these features come completely free, and as opposed to Facebook Messenger Kids, your child won’t receive any ads while using the app.
Memories folder feature
Our favorite standout feature is the Memories folder, which allows you to record conversations and save videos on the app. If your kid was especially cute one day and you wanted to keep the chat you shared for forever, you can do that.
You can save the cutest conversation for your indulgence whenever you want.
Source: JustTalk Kids
What we don’t like
Since JusTalk Kids is a standalone app, you can’t connect to a parent account. So you’ll need to log in to your kid’s account every time you want to approve contacts or look at their chat history. There’s also no Sleep mode feature, so you can’t limit your child’s use of the app as easily.
Google Family Link: Best integration
Sync your child’s Google account with your own
- Controls from your Gmail account
- Easy set-up
- Less kid-friendly interface
What we like
It’s always easier to have everything in the same place. You can keep your video chat parental controls in the same space you keep the rest of your internet life.
Control everything with your Gmail account
If you’re like me, and literally your entire internet life revolves around your Google account, setting your child up with their own Gmail account on Family Link will be your best option. Gmail doesn’t have the same kid-friendly interface that you find with Facebook Messenger Kids or JusTalk Kids, but the parental controls are just as strong.
Easy Google Family Link set-up
To set your kid up with Google Family Link, download the Google Family Link app on your smartphone, or you can set it up on your computer. Open the app, follow the prompts (including entering your email address and your child’s email address), and you’ll have no problem setting it up.
This is what installing your Google Family Link will look like. Thank goodness for an easy-install user experiences for parents.
Once you have everything set up, you can control your kid’s contacts, see how much time they’re spending on their device, and even lock them out of their account in the middle of the night.
What we don’t like
The ease of parental controls from your Gmail account is awesome, but Gmail’s user interface isn’t exactly child friendly. Your kid will see a very similar interface to what you see on your Gmail account, so it won’t be as bright, colorful, or simple as other apps like Facebook Messenger Kids or JusTalk Kids.
Caribu: Best for reading books
Read books to your kids (or grandkids) from miles away
- Choose from thousands of books
- Temporarily free
- Occasional crashes
What we like
Caribu is the best video chat app for reading books to your kids and just so happens to be free during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Choose from thousands of different books to read with your kids
We aren’t kidding when we say that Caribu offers literally over thousands of books that you can read with your kids. You can just keep on scrolling through the app like you would scroll through your social media feed—it’s essentially endless. Books are organized well and categorized by genre or author.
Being able to jump from Thomas the Tank Engine books to books about space is pretty rad.
Once you find a book you want to read with your child, you can tap the title on your phone, and you’ll see this screen:
Tap Read Together, and you can choose someone from your contacts to call. That’s all you have to do to start reading a book together even from miles away. Sometimes, living in the year 2020 is actually cool.
What we don’t like
While testing the app, I ran into a few instances of crashes occurring while reading a book. Crashes can happen for a plethora of reasons (I’m sure my 8-month-old biting my phone while I was reading didn’t help), but it occurred enough to make me think that the app isn’t perfectly optimized just yet. Thankfully, the crashes were few and far between and shouldn’t significantly hinder your experience.
How to run a smooth videoconference
Few things are worse than looking forward to a video chat with your kid only to find that the bad internet connection won’t let you. Both participants in a video chat need to have a decent internet connection for the video chat to run smoothly, and you can at least make sure that your connection is solid at home.
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Recap: What are the best videoconferencing apps for kids?
The most important thing is that your child feels safe while using a videoconference app. All of these apps were designed specifically with kids in mind, and are your best bet for keeping your kid safe and engaged on a video chat app.
What are the video chat apps for kids?
- Best parental controls: Facebook Messenger Kids offers the most features for parental controls that we’ve seen. Our favorite standout feature is Sleep Mode, which doesn’t allow your child to access the app when they’re supposed to be sleeping.
- Best user experience: JusTalk Kids is a free videoconference app that won’t even advertise to your child. It’s not quite as feature-rich as Facebook Messenger, but at least you don’t need to worry about sketchy ads popping up.
- Best performance: Google Family Link is a wonderful tool that’s easily integrated with a family that uses Gmail. The video chat feature (Google Hangouts) isn’t designed to be kid-friendly, but you can control everything your child has access to from your Gmail account.
- Best for reading books: Caribu is the best video chat app for reading books with your kids. Usually you have to pay for a subscription, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, you have access to thousands of books to read together.
What’s your child’s favorite video chat app? Are you ever concerned about their security while they use video chat apps? Let us know in the comments below.