Between the ages of about 10 and 13, kids will need to start interacting with family (and sometimes friends) remotely through technology.
Whether you want your child to be able to contact you while they walk home from school or to coordinate extracurricular activities, it’s important that they have a safe and easily monitorable way to do so.
The dangers of the online world are well known to parents today, which can make choosing a text app for your child a nerve-wracking experience. Luckily, there are plenty of safe, kid-friendly texting apps available through the Apple app store and for Android devices.
Today, we’re going to be sharing our top 5 text apps for kids with you so that you can make an informed decision for your child’s safety and independence.
OUR TOP PICK
The most popular and highly reviewed text app for kids is Messenger Kids, and we agree that this is one of the best choices if you want your child to be able to contact family and friends safely.
One of the key features that make Messenger Kids so safe for children aged 10 and up is the parent dashboard, which allows parents to monitor their child’s use of the app as needed.
The dashboard not only allows parents to view and manage their child’s list of contacts but also monitor messages and receive notifications when a contact is blocked.
Additionally, parental controls on Messenger Kids mean that parents can set usage time limitations on the app. This is really important because it helps to establish a healthy balance between time spent on and offline.
Just because Messenger Kids is safe, however, doesn’t mean it isn’t fun! The app contains a variety of tools to help kids express themselves creatively, such as drawing tools, filters, gifs, emojis, and stickers.
The Messenger Kids app is completely free to download, with no in-app purchases further down the line. You don’t even need a phone number to set it up!
The only concern regarding this app is the fact that it’s owned by Facebook, which means that it is subject to the company’s data collection policies.
The way that Facebook collects data from its users has raised concerns over the years, and we’d encourage you, as a parent, to look into Facebook’s data collection procedures before committing to this app.
- Parent dashboard - Easy to monitor
- Parental controls - Allows for limitations
- Includes stickers, gifs, emojis, and filters - Fun and creative
- No phone number needed - Easy to set up
- Completely free - No in-app purchases
- Owned by Facebook - Concerns about data collection
KidsEmail is another excellent text app for kids. Technically, this is an email-based app, but it allows children to communicate safely and securely using nothing but an email address.
The KidsEmail app is designed for iPads, but can be used on iOS and Android devices with the necessary software updates.
To set up a KidsEmail account, your child will need to have their own email address, and you, as the parent, will also need to subscribe to KidsEmail.
Admittedly, email is not the most popular form of communication in 2021, which could cause problems if your child’s friends don’t have email addresses, for example.
However, if your main reason for wanting to set up a text app for your child is so that they can communicate with you, and your main priority is online safety, KidsEmail is a great choice.
Using KidsEmail, you can approve certain contacts for your child. Any emails from non-approved contacts will be held in a mail queue and won’t be sent to your child’s inbox until you have approved them. Emails identified as spam will be automatically blocked by the system.
You can also set a language filter on the app, which will block emails containing any words you have marked as inappropriate. This will help to prevent your child from being exposed to any harmful content, even from approved contacts.
If you’re happy for your child to use KidsEmail to communicate with their friends, but are worried about them spending too much time on their mobile device, you can set time limits that restrict your child’s access to the app outside of certain times.
- Monitoring ability - Allows parents to review emails
- Mail queue - Approve or deny messages
- Time limits - Control hours of use
- Language filter - Ban inappropriate words
- Spam filter - Blocks nefarious emails
- Relies on email accounts - Not the most up-to-date technology
JusTalk Kids is a fun, yet safe and practical app that allows kids to stay in touch with approved contacts under the safety blanket of parental monitoring.
JusTalk Kids requires parents to set a 4-digit passcode, which is required in order for the child to access any social media through their mobile device.
The JusTalk Kids app itself allows for unlimited calls (international and video calls included) and there is no need for a SIM card, so as long as your child has a fully-charged mobile device and access to WiFi or 4G/5G, there’s no reason to ever lose touch, wherever you are.
Kids can use the sticker, photograph, and drawing features of the app to exercise their creativity while staying in touch with friends and family.
Friend requests are not a part of the JusTalk Kids app, so concerns about stranger interactions are completely minimized. Your child will not be able to speak to anyone via the app unless you approve the connection first.
There are also in-app games that your child can play to entertain themselves. However, there have been reports of the games glitching, which is something to be aware of if the gaming aspect of the app is important to you or your child.
- Passcode protected - Complete parental control
- No friend requests - Parent-approved contacts only
- End-to-end encrypted - Totally private and secure
- Unlimited calls - Never lose touch
- Sticker, drawing, and photo features - Enhances creativity
- Game feature glitches - Not always reliable for gameplay
One of the most popular text apps for kids is FamilyApp! This is definitely one of the best apps if your main priority is finding a safe way for your child to communicate remotely with family members.
FamilyApp is an app based around family communication. All family members can join if approved by existing family members, at which point the whole family can interact in one large group chat or separate chats.
All chats are encrypted, so all of your messages will stay completely secure and won’t be intercepted by third parties.
Anyone wishing to join the family group will need a unique secure key, which can only be provided at the discretion of somebody (not a dependent) in the chat. This means that nobody can gain access to the chat without approval from an adult.
In addition to the chat function, FamilyApp provides access to content and services related to family life. This includes recipes and articles, which are tailored to your personal interests.
Some users have reported glitching in the app, which means that it may not always run as smoothly as some other platforms, but the system is still very usable and you shouldn’t encounter errors on a regular basis.
- Encrypted chats - Completely secure
- Individual and group messaging - Flexible family interactions
- Unique secure key - No uninvited guests
- Family-oriented content and services - Enriches family life
- Some glitches reported - May not run smoothly 100% of the time
GeckoLife is not only an excellent app to facilitate safe, kid-friendly communication, but it can also be used to help teach children how to interact healthily and safely with others online.
Similar to FamilyApp, GeckoLife is geared towards families. The content of the app has been rated by Common Sense Media as suitable for children aged 8 and over. With that being said, there is no imposed age limit built into the app.
What makes GeckoLife a safe text app for kids is the fact that parents are able to create an account, to which they can then connect an account for their child. This way, parents are able to receive notifications when their child posts something or becomes friends with somebody.
Additionally, there is a function for parental approval that allows parents to approve anything their child posts or anyone they try to follow before the action is finalized.
This is a great preventative step when it comes to keeping your child safe, and the monitoring aspect can be used to spark conversations about staying aware and cautious online.
Something to note about the notification system, however, is that the push notifications don’t always show up, which means that sometimes, the only way to see your messages or notifications is to open up the app.
- Suited to ages 8 and over - Appropriate for young children
- Aimed at families - Provides a child-safe environment
- Notifications for parents - Allows for easy monitoring
- Parental approval functions - Control over interactions
- Inconsistent push notifications - May require the user to open the app
Best Text App for Kids Buying Guide
Choosing a text app for your child definitely isn’t a decision to make lightly. As scary as it can be to acknowledge, the wrong choice can have serious consequences for your child’s safety.
Luckily, all of the apps we’ve reviewed today will provide your child with a safe way to communicate with approved family and friends. However, if you’re still not sure which one to choose, the pointers below should help you out.
It goes without saying that you can’t download an app to your child’s device (and your own) if you don’t both have the right technology to use it. Therefore, you’ll need to make sure ahead of time that your chosen app is compatible with the system(s) you have available to you.
The apps we’ve reviewed for today’s article are available to download for iOS and Android devices, but you’ll need to make sure that you have a sufficiently up-to-date system in terms of software downloads because, otherwise, app compatibility can be compromised.
Text apps for kids come in a variety of different forms and may rely on different technologies or methods of communication.
For example, some text apps (think WhatsApp) work by connecting to your phone number. We’ve tried to prioritize apps that work using WiFi or 4G/5G connections instead since, for the most part, the point of a text app for kids is to eliminate the need for a phone with a SIM card, which is more difficult to monitor.
Some text apps require an email account, which may or may not work for you depending on whether you yourself have an email address, whether you are prepared to set one up for your child, and whether other people with whom you want your child to communicate use email.
Bear in mind that many younger people do not rely on emails to keep in touch, so if you’re looking for a safe way to let your child communicate with friends, an email-based text app might not be the best choice.
Different text apps have different demographics. Some, for example, are geared towards allowing kids to interact safely and securely with both friends and family, while other apps are solely focused on providing a space for families to interact virtually together.
You should bear this in mind when choosing the best text app for your child and base your choice on who you intend for them to communicate with.
If your primary concern is yourself and other members of the family being able to contact your child on their commute home from school, for example, a family-centered app might be more appropriate.
If, on the other hand, you feel it’s time to give your child a little more independence in terms of contacting their friends, the app you choose will need to allow for this.
Not all text apps come with specific age recommendations or limitations, but you should also consider how age-appropriate different apps are for your child.
Some text apps for kids are suitable for young children, around the age of 8, while others are more geared towards children aged 10 to 13. The content available to access and the actions allowed by the app will reflect this, so it’s important not to choose an app that’s too mature for your child’s age.
Safety features are probably the most important part of a text app for kids. After all, the reason behind having separate apps for children is to keep kids safe from potential dangers online.
One of the key safety features a text app for kids should have is the ability for parental monitoring and/or control. This means that a parent should be able to monitor or approve who their child is communicating with online and the content of the conversations.
Normally, this will involve the parent signing up for the app themselves and receiving notifications and access from their own device.
For example, a good text app for kids might notify a parent when their child befriends someone new. Alternatively, an even better format is one that requires approval from the parent before any new contacts can be added.
Encryption is also very important because it will help to keep your child’s conversations safe from the prying eyes of third parties who may otherwise be able to access messages and other data.
If your child is texting you to let you know their location, for example, you certainly don’t want that information falling into the wrong hands. Therefore, we highly recommend prioritizing end-to-end encryption.
A digital secure key (usually a code consisting of a series of numbers) is also an important feature. A secure key will basically ensure that nobody can join a family group chat or connect with your child through a text app without the code.
As the adult, only you should have the code, which ensures that you have full control over who your child interacts with via the app.
It can be useful for a kids’ texting app to have a time limit feature that can be controlled by a parental figure. It’s often easy for kids to spend all day on electronic devices, which isn’t conducive to a healthy lifestyle.
The ability to set a limit on the amount of time, or what time of day, your child can access their text app can help to reduce this problem.
Other features you might want to consider before committing to a text app for your child are games and creative features. For example, do you want your child to be able to send pictures to family and friends? What about stickers or gifs?
Would you be comfortable with them being able to play online games with friends? All of these features can be found in various text apps for kids, so it’s up to you to decide what you feel your child is ready for.