TextNow Guide: What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

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September 6, 2022

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This TextNow app guide will help parents learn

  • Why TextNow is popular with students
  • Why parents should care about TextNow
  • Tips to keep students safe while using TextNow

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

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Table of Contents

Parents need to know that TextNow Unlimited is a workaround for kids and tweens who don't have a cell phone, but still want to send messages with their friends while on a wifi connection (and who covet the all-important number).

Parent & educator video lesson

(This parent and educator video is best to be shown to adults)‍

(Click on the three lines or a blue dot in video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

  1. What is TextNow?
  2. Where to find TextNow and ratings
  3. Examples of TextNow dangers
  4. Why do students want to be on TextNow?
  5. What can parents do?
  6. How to set a number lock
  7. Join the conversation!

What is TextNow?

TextNow logo
  • TextNow offers free texting and free calling on the app as an alternative to a contracted phone plan with a national carrier 
  • The app assigns a random phone number to the user to make it compatible with SMS text providers
  • Users can text or call from the TextNow-assigned local number on wifi or using the data from another carrier the user already has
  • Since all messages go through the TextNow app downloaded on the student’s device, messages are not easily found unless the parent knows to specifically look in the TextNow app

What is TextNow rated?

Apple App Store Rating: 12+

Google Play Rating: E (Everyone)

TextNow Privacy Policy

Owned by TextNow, Inc. (Based in Waterloo, Canada)

Examples of TextNow dangers in the news

Special report: text app dangers
"They were asking sexual questions, asking for pictures… I'm scrolling through this and I'm like 'oh my gosh, oh my gosh, who is this person?’ It turned out to be a stranger in pursuit of personal information. I had heard of stories about people who did this, that's why I was trying to be so vigilant about monitoring her online activities…” - WTXL, Tallahassee
Warning for parents: child predators using mobile apps to target children
This mom monitored her daughter's online activity and checked her cell phone, but her daughter was using a texting app that mom wasn't looking for. - Fox 6, Milwaukee

What parents need to know about texting apps
The Alamance County Sheriff's office says two messaging apps called TextMe and TextNow is how a 16-year-old was able to send threatening messages to fellow students…The apps let users send text messages and even make calls. But the receiver doesn't recognize who is contacting them, because the apps assign random phone numbers to the calls and texts. - WFMY News 2, Greensboro

Why do students want to use TextNow?

example of TextNow's marketing
  • Some students might think it is a great app to help them get a new number without getting a new phone through one of the major carriers (like T-mobile or Verizon’s network) and say TextNow has an easy set up and good service for group texting
  • They are attracted to unlimited data, unlimited talk, and the high-speed data promised with TextNow wireless options (different from the app, but important to note differences between cell phone service & and the wifi app)
  • Students feel safer thinking the people they are talking to on the app don’t know their real contact number
  • They feel anonymous and can share more (information/feelings/thoughts/photos) with the people they are talking to on the app
  • Students may think parents do not monitor this app or know how to look at the incoming or outgoing calls, or messages sent or received in the app

Why should parents & educators care?

  • There are reports of predators using the app to target victims of all ages and users report lots of missed calls and spam calls
  • Students feel like they can hide their activity from their parents when they use the app because their messages don’t show up on their carrier's bill
  • Children also think they can send inappropriate pictures or bully others without their parents seeing it on their device’s SMS messages

What can parents & educators do about TextNow?

  • If you are considering this app for your family, download the app and use it for yourself to see what it is like. Ask your student to show you how they use the app and what they like about it
  • Encourage your student to use the built-in text messaging and calling features within their device
  • Remind students to never share personal information over any app with someone they do not know in real life (address, numbers, school, other social media accounts, passwords, credit card information, etc.) even if they are being threatened to do so
  • Create and update a Social Media and Cell Phone Agreement to establish boundaries of what apps students may use, screen time, and monitoring
  • It’s important for your students to know that they can always come and talk to you or another trusted adult if a stranger tries to contact them or they experience something that makes them uncomfortable

Privacy/setting recommendations for TextNow

  • TextNow offers a “number lock” for a weekly fee 
  • When locked the student must be the one who starts the conversation 

How can I lock in my number?

  1. Open the TextNow app
  2. Click the Menu icon in top left corner
  3. Select “My Store”
  4. Scroll down and select “Lock In Number,” then follow the onscreen prompts to complete your purchase

More resources for parents, students, & educators

Smartphone and Social Media Agreement

Conclusion

If your student has the TextNow app please have a conversation with them and explain the dangers of using it. Use the app for yourself if your student is asking for it and continue to monitor your student’s screen time and devices.


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