Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and most other social media apps require children to be 13 years of age or older to create a profile and use the service. But, we know that young kids use these apps anyway. This has prompted some companies to come up with younger versions, like Snapkidz (now discontinued), Facebook Messenger Kids, and the recently announced Instagram for kids. But what are the most popular social media apps for kids under 13 today?
First, a few facts
The reason for the 13 and over requirement is not just to protect children from communication with strangers, bullying, and exposure to negative and inappropriate content. It is also to protect the privacy of children. Under federal law known as the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), online businesses are not permitted to knowingly collect data from children under the age of 13 and use it for the purposes of marketing.
The challenge? A recent survey from Common Sense Media (CSM), a nonprofit that researches, assesses and examines children’s media and technology, found that nearly half (49%) of teens aged 11 and under had a social media account. These tweens and younger kids are eager to chat, post, share and stay in touch with friends and family – as they see older kids doing – so they lie about their age to access these platforms. .
The good news is that there are popular social media apps for kids under 13 that meet COPPA requirements.
However, proceed with caution. Just because the apps are designed for young children doesn’t mean they provide a hands-off experience for parents. You need to “stay involved so that you can be your child’s training wheels on social media,” said Christine Elgersma, editor-in-chief of social media and learning resources at CSM. Parentology.
Applications for children under 13
There are dozens of COPPA-compliant social media apps for children under 13. We’ve put together a handful to give you an idea of what’s out there, and we’ve limited our choices to those rated 3 stars and above) and also recommended for children under 13 by the CSM.
Azoomee — Games and Videos for Children
(CSM ranking: 4 stars, 6 years old and over)
Kids can chat with friends while browsing this enclosed environment filled with educational games and videos, audiobooks, crafts, and more. New content is added every week and you can create personalized profiles for each child in your family. Azoomee is ad-free and all content is hosted within the app, so kids won’t be directed to external sites like YouTube. Azoomee offers a free trial and then costs $ 6.99 / month.
(3-star CSM ranking, 10 years old and over)
Created as a bully-free zone where girls can start social media, Girl2Girl Wall allows them to connect with others who share similar interests. Users choose from dozens of topics including Pets, Friends, Health & Nutrition, Favorites, and Celebrities, and then ask each other questions. User-generated content is reviewed by a live person before being published. The app is free but contains advertisements.
Kinzoo Messenger for families
(5-star CSM rating, ages 6 and up)
This app is designed for children, but is intended for use by the whole family. In addition to its popular security features that protect users from outside connections, Kinzoo also promotes “safer self-expression” by removing pressure from likes, comments or subscribers. Kids can text, create their own emojis and stickers, draw pictures, and use the audio and video features. Kinzoo recently added in-app purchases for things like stickers (free sticker options are still available). The application is free.
(4-star CSM rating, 11 years and over)
Kidzworld is a social networking site that allows tweens around the world to create profiles, chat with other members, post on forums, upload photos and videos, and play games. Users also read articles on topics of interest and can start a thread to start a conversation. Kidzworld says its moderators approve photos, videos, and articles before posting, and that they use people and software to protect children’s privacy and safety. The app is free but contains advertisements.
PopJam: Art, Games, Friends
(3-star CSM rating, 11 years and over)
PopJam is a creativity / social media app where kids can share their creations and connect with others. Using PopJam’s art tools and stickers, kids can create and post content and have followers commenting on their posts. Children can also take quizzes, watch videos, and try out puzzles. The app contains ads, but it’s free with no in-app purchases. It’s also watched by real people and computer software, and PopJam actually shuts down every day, which means users can’t post between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. in their respective time zones.
Choose the best app
When looking for the best social media app for your kids, it’s important to read each other’s privacy policies. You want to understand if and how ads are used, and learn how the site monitors user-generated content, like chat rooms and posts. You also want to know if there are any in-app purchases or links that will take your kids out of the app.
Elgersma recommends reviewing the settings available on each app and noting whether kids can turn off notifications, control who comments on posts, and send them messages. She advises you to make sure that you can control these settings as well if your kids aren’t ready to handle them on their own.
Elgersma also says parents should be careful about how easily it will be to see what their child is doing, noting that some sites make it a lot easier to check what your children are doing.