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Best Chat Apps: What Parents, Educators & Students Need to Know

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August 14, 2023

This Best Chat App guide will help parents learn:

  • Why chat apps are so popular with students
  • The pros and cons of the best chat apps
  • Tips to keep student safe while using chat apps

Learn why parents and educators should care about chat apps

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Best Chat Apps: What Parents, Educators & Students Need to Know

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Today's students are surrounded by technology, both in and out of the classroom, and they are using group messaging apps for communicating with friends, teams, or classes.  Parents are seeking platforms that not only keep them connected with their children and their activities, but also ensure safety, privacy, and educational value. 

In this SmartSocial guide we explore the pros and cons of the best chat apps that are available, catering specifically to the unique communication needs of students and parents.  

Educators and parents: Guide your students' reflection and discussion with this student worksheet. (Log in to your Google account and select File-->Make a Copy)

GroupMe App (Gray Zone)

GroupMe logo
  • GroupMe is a free chat app, where users can send either direct messages or group chats from their computer or mobile phone or device using WiFi
  • Users can send and share photos, videos, GIFs, polls, files, and create events
  • When registering for a GroupMe account, users must be able to verify a phone number to be associated with the account
  • Students can share their exact location with others through the app and when their geo-location is enabled, they can easily connect with nearby strangers
  • Since activity from GroupMe doesn’t show up on their parents’ phone bill (like text messages), students could use the app to hide their messaging activity

To learn more about the GroupMe messaging app and important privacy/setting recommendations, read our GroupMe App Guide for Parents, Educators, & Students

Remind App (Green Zone)

Remind App logo
  • Remind is a communication platform that is designed for schools, teachers, or group leaders to relay information to their students and parents through one messaging app
  • Teachers can send out a unique class code that allows parents or students to join the class or group through the app.  Users cannot join the groups without the code
  • Although the app is free to use, there are additional features that require fees such as the Remind Tutoring Services or a Hub for administrators

To learn more about the pros and cons of the Remind app, read our Remind App Guide: What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

WhatsApp (Gray Zone)

WhatsApp logo
  • WhatsApp is a popular messaging app for smartphones and desktops
  • Users can send and receive messages, calls, photos, videos, documents, and voice messages
  • It’s easy to create group chats among school clubs, sports teams, groups of friends, and relatives, etc. no matter what type of device others are using (Android and iOs)
  • Up to 256 people can join a WhatsApp group chat (Source: WhatsApp)
  • There are no message limits or data fees to:
  • ~Make video calls
  • ~Send text messages
  • ~Send videos, photos, and audio messages
  • Users can send “disappearing” messages, like on Snapchat, through the Status feature
  • Message and call logs from WhatsApp will not show up on a phone bill

To find out more about  WhatsApp and the important privacy/setting recommendations, read our WhatsApp: Safety Guide for Parents & Students

Messenger Kids (Green Zone)

Messenger Kids logo
  • Messenger Kids is a video chat and messaging app
  • Similar to Snapchat, users can add filters, stickers, text, and doodles to their video messages
  • The parent’s Facebook account is linked to their child’s Messenger Kids account where they will be able to control the contact list, manage the Kids account, and the ability to approve or deny friend requests. Parents cannot control the Kids app through their personal Facebook Messenger app, it must be through the official Facebook app
  • Students can also create a code to send to friends to connect (but parents must still approve each friend)
  • The app asks for a child’s name, birthday, gender, and photo (but none are required to use the app)
  • They can also play games while video chatting (with one friend or with a group)
  • Kids cannot hide messages since they will never disappear

To find out more about the pros and cons of Messenger Kids, read our Messenger Kids: Facebook Chat App for Younger Children

Kik Chat App (Red Zone)

Kik logo
  • The goal of Kik is “connecting the world through chat”
  • Each user creates a unique username and must acknowledge they are 13 or older, but there is not an age identification process beyond entering a valid email address
  • Users can chat one-on-one or in group messages with known friends or strangers and can share videos and photos
  • Users can download and share their Kik Codes or share their unique username to allow others to find them on the app
  • The app saves between 200 and 1,000 messages in each chat thread depending on how long ago the chat happened and the device being used
  • Users can report other users for explicit messages (chat, photo, or video). However,  banned users can simply create new accounts and repeat offenses against the terms of use
  • Strangers can easily ask for personal information to exploit other users
  • Like anything online, users can screen record “private” conversations. They can then share messages or recordings off the platform for other purposes

To learn more about the pros and cons of the Kik app visit our resource: Kik Chat App: What Parents Need to Know

BAND (Green Zone)

Band App logo
  • The Band app is a free, mobile messaging app that many groups, teams, and individuals are using to easily communicate
  • It’s available for both iOS and Android devices and requires users to verify their email address or phone number when registering
  • Users can create “Bands” (public or private groups) and send messages, videos, photos, and files or share calendar events
  • “Private” groups can be created that cannot be searched for and can only be joined with an invitation
  • From the settings menu, parents can add “Supervision” to accounts for users under the age of 18 years old 
  • ~A supervisor can view their child’s activities on Band, enable the Discover feature when necessary, and check the Bands they join or the Pages they follow
  • ~In order to supervise an account, the child will need to accept the parent’s request to supervise
  • Students using the Band app should be aware of the potential for cyberbullying and be reminded to not share personal information through the app
  • There is a Band for Kids app that is targeted to kids under 13.  Kids must get parent permission to register

To learn more about the pros and cons of the BAND app visit our resource: BAND App Guide for Parents

TeamSnap (Green Zone)

TeamSnap logo
  • Team Snap is a communication app designed to be used by sports teams to share schedules, player availability, contact information of other players/parents, and a group chat feature
  • TeamSnap states that “all of your team data is 100% private and password-protected - nobody can access your team info without specific permission from you.” (Source: TeamSnap)
  • Easy to add family members to a player so that anyone in the family can have access to the information on the app
  • TeamSnap includes a scheduling option which makes it easy to see upcoming team events and for students to mark their availability

To learn more about the pros and cons of the TeamSnap app visit our resource: Is TeamSnap Safe? What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

Saturn App (Green Zone)

Saturn app logo
  • Saturn is a calendar-based social media app that allows high school students to manage their busy high school lives
  • Students can view and manage their schedules and share them with their friends
  • Schedules can be viewed in real-time throughout the day including a countdown timer 
  • The app allows students to manage their assignments, homework, and to-do lists, and groups for clubs, sports teams, and other extracurricular activities can be created
  • The chat feature allows students to message each other back and forth individually and within different classes and group chats
  • Students can connect their other social media accounts such as Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Venmo
  • Remind students to not share personal information in their calendars or messages, especially if their account is public
  • Students have the option to choose if their Saturn account is private or public
  • Public accounts can interact with their fellow classmates signed up with Saturn and share important school work information and notes as well as view other students’ schedules
  • Private accounts will have their schedules blocked from others but will have the option to approve and grant access to  specific users to view their schedules
  • Only those within the school’s networks will be able to view class schedules whether the account is private or public

To learn more about the pros and cons of the Saturn app visit our resource: Saturn App: What Parents Need to Know

Telegram Messenger (Red Zone)

Telegram Messenger logo
  • Telegram Messenger is a messaging app that is separate from the phone’s native messaging software that many students like to use to communicate with large groups of friends or classmates
  • Users must verify a phone number when registering for a Telegram Messenger account. They have the option to create a username and t.me/username link so other users can connect without exchanging phone numbers
  • Users can send messages, files (photos, videos, etc.), or voice call, video call, and participate in voice chats through the app
  • Telegram Groups can contain up to 200,000 users at once
  • Channels broadcast to an unlimited number of users or users can communicate one-on-one
  • Secret Chats provide end-to-end encryption. Only the sender and recipient can read or access the messages. Secret Chats can only be accessed on one device per user compared to Groups or Channels that can be accessed on any device the user logs into
  • Users cannot forward Secret Chats and can set a time for the messages to “disappear” from the message records
  • By messaging through the app, students they can hide messages from adults who monitor their cell phone usage. Users can set a unique passcode for the app to lock out others who may have access to their phone
  • Like Snapchat and Instagram, Telegram Messenger offers stickers, gif searches, and a photo editor that students often enjoy using to create fun messages
  • Users can share a “last seen status” with other users, which can make teens feel more connected to other users 
  • The Telegram Messenger app offers a “People Nearby" search. Teens can use this to easily connect with others who are on the app and are physically nearby

To learn more about the pros and cons of Telegram, visit our Telegram Messenger Parent Guide

Discord (Red Zone)

Discord logo
  • Discord is an app and website that connects millions of users via voice, video, and text chats based on similar interests
  • The site is made up of different servers which are essentially chat rooms that users can either join,  create, or moderate, based on various different topics or interests
  • Users can live stream games and internet videos
  • Discord started as an app for gamers, but it has branched out to become a general use platform where users can find Discord servers covering any topic
  • Users can access the service via an internet browser, PC, mobile device, or Xbox (Source PCGamer)
  • Discord says a user talks "upwards of 4 hours per day on the platform" (Source: Discord)
  • Discord markets itself as “a place where everyone can be themselves,” which often encourages students to make risky decisions they might not normally make (Source: Discord Safety)
  • A Discord account is “pseudonymous” meaning beyond a self-reported age verification when signing up and the user’s email address or phone number, users are anonymous
  • Like many chat apps, Discord doesn’t put out dangerous content itself, but users may target other users with harmful images and messages. If your student’s Discord discussions allow random people to join, there’s a good chance they might come across something inappropriate or malicious users

To learn more about the pros and cons of Discord, visit our Discord Safety Guide

Spond (Gray Zone)

Spond logo
  • Spond is a group communication tool and team management app that makes it easy to manage teams, clubs, or groups
  • It allows groups to invite members to practices or events, communicate important information, and collect payments
  • Each admin has full control to determine who can contact the students in their club/team/group, so be sure and ask your group leader what settings they have used
  • There is no verification process for group leaders so before joining a group, be sure that the group leader is who they say they are and they are someone you trust
  • Spond does include messaging and private messaging features, so online bullying may be an issue
  • You must use a phone number or email address to verify an account
  • Groups cannot be found by searching, so you must have an invite to join

To learn more about the pros and cons of Spond, visit our Spond App Guide

Conclusion

In today's age there are many popular messaging apps to choose from for students and parents. The most important thing a parent can do before allowing their student to use one of these popular chat apps is to download the app and use it for themselves first. Set any available privacy settings and keep an open dialogue with your student about appropriate online behavior and good digital citizenship. And once your student has the app installed on their own device, parents should regularly review the app with their student to make sure that there is nothing inappropriate or concerning happening in the app.

More resources for parents, students, & educators

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Superintendents, Directors and Principals: Request a partnership on this page to unlock our resources for your whole community.

This Best Chat App guide will help parents learn:

  • Why chat apps are so popular with students
  • The pros and cons of the best chat apps
  • Tips to keep student safe while using chat apps

Learn why parents and educators should care about chat apps

<iframe height="200px" width="100%" frameborder="no" scrolling="no" seamless src="https://player.simplecast.com/a8536311-8174-4556-b4f5-e8b13541aae1?dark=false"></iframe>

Log in or join the VIP membership today to view all SmartSocial.com resources about social media!

Become a member or log in to learn more on this topic

Superintendents, Directors and Principals: Request a partnership on this page to unlock our resources for your whole community.
Quotation marks

This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!

StarStarStarStarStar

Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

Quotation marks

Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.

StarStarStarStarStar

Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

Quotation marks

This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.

StarStarStarStarStar

Irene C.

Educator Webinar Attendee

Learn more

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