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The 6 apps and services that every parent should know about

6 Apps every parent should know about

It’s impossible to keep up with all the apps and services children use online but here’s Parent Info’s guide to some of the most popular. 


The photo-messaging app allows users to take and share photos and videos, adding text and silly graphics to people listed in their smartphone’s contact list who also have the app.

When Snapchat launched, its success came from the ethereal nature of the ‘Snaps’ – they lasted only a few seconds before disappearing and couldn’t be saved by the person receiving them. This meant children could have fun, pulling silly faces and not worrying that the image would be around forever.

As Snapchat has evolved, this has changed. The person posting can now choose how long the images stay up by creating Stories, which are available for up to 24 hours. Images can also be screen shot outside the app and shared by the person receiving them.

Snapchat is unmoderated and therefore, you cannot filter the posts your child receives or Stories they view, which means they can be exposed to adult content.

Learn more about safety controls for Snapchat here.

Further reading

Snapchat FAQs

Snapchat: what to do if you’re worried


Like Facebook, lots of parents use Instagram and so are more aware of how the app works than some of the others on this list.

Instagram allows its users to share images and videos with each other and has introduced live streaming.

Users can comment on posts, which can lead to both positive and negative judgements.

Posts can be seen by anyone as default, but you can change your child’s privacy settings so that only people they know can see them. However, their bio, profile and profile image will remain public.

Instagram has been accused of contributing to the rise in body image issues among young people. Celebrities post images that have been heavily edited, professionally styled and often retouched, giving an idea of beauty that is both unreal and unattainable for most people, while young people themselves can obsess over taking the perfect selfie.

Further reading

Instagram FAQs

Instagram launches disappearing live video and messages

Lawyer rewrites Instagram terms and conditions in plain English so teens can understand them

Selfies: the good, the bad and the downright irritating

Tik Tok

From the company that recently bought the hugely popular app,, Tik Tok lets you make and share music videos and its popularity has surged among children and young people, spawning its own young stars, rather in the manner of how YouTube launched the likes of Zoella and Alfie Deyes.

To create their own music videos, users can select the song they wish to use in their video first, then record themselves miming along to the music for up to 60 seconds. Alternatively, users can record their video first and then select a song. They can then edit and add special effects to their clips

Because Tik Tok is an unmoderated live streaming app, parents should be aware that users can be viewed and contacted by others, including people they don’t know. There have been reports of requests for images of a sexual nature from strangers commenting on children’s videos.

Users can report abuse by tapping on the three dots icon (…) within the app and following the instructions. To block, go to the user’s profile, click the three dots icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

Further reading

The popular app has been rebranded as Tik Tok


Children and young people love YouTube. Some just like watching the clips – anything from Taylor Swift performances to cute cat videos to YouTubers like football gaming star KSI – while others make their own and post them for others to watch and comment on.

YouTube has simple parental controls to restrict access to adult content, strict community rules about posts and an easy process to report illegal, harmful or upsetting content. But there is still a chance your child will come across content you wouldn’t want them to, including religious and extremist propaganda. That’s why it’s important to encourage them to think critically about anything they see on the platform. The content may not be true or have come from a verifiable source.

To post, you need to be 13 years old and open an account but you can watch content at any age. For children under 13, there is an app, YouTube Kids, with content specially curated for a younger age group.

Further reading

YouTube: what parents need to know

Review: YouTube Kids

Setting filters on YouTube

Think critically


Live streaming services like Skype, Periscope and Facebook Live allow users to broadcast in real-time with no moderation.

Lots of families happily use Skype – it’s a really useful app that can help people stay in touch with friends and relatives who live a long way away, or when parents are separated.

However, live streaming services do have inherent risks because they’re unmoderated.

They can be used by people to communicate with children privately, which can be particularly worrying if your child uses them to talk to strangers online.

‘Your child might not think their online friend is a stranger at all’

One of the problems for parents is that your child might not think their online friend is a stranger at all, so could be persuaded to do things they wouldn't normally, such as sharing sexual images, or become interested in extremist political or religious views. 

Skype doesn’t offer a facility to record conversations, but people could record them with a separate device or programme, and then share images without your child knowing.

Warn them of the dangers of using live streaming sites, and advise them that, if they do, they shouldn’t give away anything that will identify their full name, where they live, like to hang out, or go to school when using these sites to talk to people they do not know in real life.  

As with all sites and apps they use, teach them how to block and report, and make sure they have a trusted adult to confide in should something go wrong.

Further reading

Skype: a parent’s guide

How to block and report on Skype


Another app parents are increasingly aware of because they use it themselves, WhatsApp allows groups of users to have a running conversation. It’s good fun and can save a lot of time when organising activities – or even what the family is having for tea.

Children and young people use it to share images, organise homework and generally chat with their friends and they can communicate with anyone in their contacts list who has the app. It was aimed at 13+ but in May 2018, its minimum age was raised to 16 in Europe, including the UK, following the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR.)

There have been reports of bullying and inappropriate contact with children by adults on the app. It’s unmoderated so young users will need to know how to block upsetting or illegal contact and report users within the app themselves.

Further reading

WhatsApp: a parent’s guide

Staying safe on WhatsApp

By Eleanor Levy

The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or CEOP.

Updated: ​May 2018

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