Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and most other social media apps require kids to be 13 years or older to create a profile and use the service. But, we know younger kids are using these apps anyway. This has spurred some companies to create 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, Some Facts
The reason for the 13 and older requirement is not only to protect children from communicating with strangers, bullying, and being exposed to negative and inappropriate content. It’s also to protect kids’ privacy. Under the federal law known as the Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA), online companies are not allowed to knowingly collect data on children under 13 and use it for marketing purposes.
The challenge? A recent survey from Common Sense Media (CSM), a nonprofit that researches, rates, and reviews kids’ media and technology, found that almost half (49%) of adolescents 11 or younger had a social media account. These tweens and younger children are eager to chat, post, share and stay connected with friends and family — like they see older kids doing — so they lie about their age to get on those platforms.
The good news is there are some popular social media apps for kids under 13 that meet COPPA requirements.
Still, proceed with caution. Just because apps are designed for younger kids, doesn’t mean they provide a hands-off experience for parents. You need to “stay involved so you can be your kid’s social media training wheels,” Christine Elgersma, Senior Editor of Social Media and Learning Resources at CSM tells Parentology.
Apps for Kids Under 13
There are dozens of COPPA-compliant social networking apps for kids under 13. We’ve rounded up a handful to give you a sense of what’s out there, and we’ve limited our choices to those rated 3 stars and above (out of 5) and also recommended for kids under 13 by CSM.
Azoomee—Kids Games and Videos
(CSM rating: 4 stars, age 6+)
Kids can chat with friends as they navigate this closed environment filled with educational games and videos, audiobooks, DIY crafts, and more. New content is added weekly, and you can create personalized profiles for each child in your family. Azoomee is ad-free and all of the 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.
(CSM rating 3 stars, age 10+)
Created as a bully-free zone where girls can start social networking, Girl2Girl Wall lets them connect with others who share similar interests. Users choose from dozens of topics including pets, friends, health and nutrition, crushes, and celebs, and then ask questions of each other. User-generated content is reviewed by a live person before it is posted. The app is free but contains ads.
Kinzoo Messenger for Families
(CSM rating 5 stars, age 6+)
This app is designed for children, but is meant to be used by the whole family. In addition to its highly-regarded safety features that protect users from outside connections, Kinzoo also promotes “safer self-expression” by eliminating the pressures of likes, comments, or followers. Kids can text, create their own emojis and stickers, draw pictures, and use audio and video features. Kinzoo recently added in-app purchases for things like stickers (free sticker options are still available). The app is free.
(CSM rating 4 stars, age 11+)
Kidzworld is a social networking site that lets tweens from all over the world create a profile, chat with other members, post in forums, upload photos and videos, and play games. Users also read articles on high-interest topics and can start a thread to initiate a conversation. Kidzworld says its moderators approve photos, videos, and articles before posting and that they use people as well as software to protect kids’ privacy and safety. The app is free but contains ads.
PopJam: Art, Games, Friends
(CSM rating 3 stars, age 11+)
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 make and post content and have followers who comment on their posts. Kids can also take quizzes, watch videos, and try puzzles. The app contains ads, but it’s free, with zero in-app purchases. It’s also monitored by real people and computer software, and PopJam actually closes each day—meaning users are not able to post between 11pm and 6 am in their respective time zones.
Choosing the Best App
Elgersma recommends reviewing the settings available on each app and noting whether kids can turn off notifications, control who comments on posts, and can message them. She advises you to make sure you can control these settings too if your kids aren’t ready to handle them on their own.
Elgersma also says parents should pay attention to how easy it will be for them to see what their kid is up to, noting some sites make it much easier to check in on what your kids are doing.