If you introduce a child to bike riding by using training wheels, you’re setting them up for a shock. Most kids master peddling and steering within a few minutes and are thrilled with the freedom of tearing around the neighborhood. They don’t realize, however, that a crucial skill hasn’t been learned. It’s not until the training wheels are removed that they fall for the first time. And they all fall the first time. And it’s always a shock when they do.
But, eventually, they all learn how to balance on two wheels and they all appreciate the extra speed, agility, and fun you get without training wheels.
If you’ve read VC Daily before, you’ll know where we’re heading…
Yes, there are now kids’ video chat “training wheels” available to teach children the fundamentals of social media before they’re ultimately, and perhaps unsuspectingly, let loose in the real world of online society.
And few of these apps come more insulated than JusTalk Kids.
The JusTalk Kids Video Chat App Is a Safe Place of Their Own
The marketing around the JusTalk Kids video chat app is simple–it offers safe video calling and messaging. Most products pitched at children via their parents are presented as fun, educational, or already incredibly popular. Tech, however, must be safe, first and foremost. It’s easy for kids to get up to things they shouldn’t with the help of the internet, and, thanks to scandals such as Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica saga or the very real threats of cyberbullying and video calling security breaches, parents are increasingly aware of how many opportunities the internet offers for kids to have unpleasant and even dangerous experiences.
The online world, however, remains an integral part of our lives, regardless of its perils. Much like driving, drinking, and learning not to combine the two, we all must confront it at some point.
So JusTalk has created a pair of social media training wheels. Its app, available on mobile and tablet and across iOS and Android, offers messaging, video chat, and the lighter side of online socializing–such as stickers, doodling, and emojis–to children under the age of 13. Unlike the adult versions of social media, however, all this technology is guarded by parental locks and passcodes. Importantly, the app is further insulated by the fact that there are no ads and no in-app purchases.
And it seems to work, both as a social media trainer and defender of the innocent.
JusTalk Kids vs. Messenger Kids
As you may already know, JusTalk isn’t the first child-friendly social media app. Facebook got there first more than a year ago with Messenger Kids–and these two apps are remarkably similar.
In both cases you get the following safety features:
- Access is granted through an ID, so you don’t need a phone number
- Contacts can’t be sought or added without entering a parental passcode
- Messages are kept, so they can be checked
- Messages and calls are end-to-end encrypted
- IDs and numbers are hidden so both parties must know each other outside the app before they can meet
- Unsolicited messages and calls remain unseen
- Friends can be blocked and deleted
- No ads or in-app purchases
The big difference is how you access the apps in the first place. While you can be invited by a friend in both cases, Messenger Kids requires the parents of children to have a Facebook account. The child doesn’t have to join, and parents don’t have to be friends on Facebook in order for their children to chat, but there’s a necessary link to the main app nonetheless. JusTalk, on the other hand, doesn’t require any link to its regular version.
That point of difference between the apps is more important than you may first think. What both these apps are actually doing is introducing your child to the wider world of social media, and few organizations have been so closely associated with the dark side of online media than Facebook. In fact, the initial launch of Facebook Messenger was met with near-instant requests that it be dismantled over concerns about the privacy of children’s information and habits.
But, that’s the virtual world you are introducing your children to when you take them through their first social media steps–even if they stay on a carefully controlled app.
JusTalk Kids Works As a Social Media Introduction
We reviewed the adult version of JusTalk a while ago, and the JusTalk Kids video chat app offers much the same experience. Actually, the limited nature of both versions, which lack video chat basics like file sharing and group calls, means the app probably works best as an introduction to video calling and messaging anyway, rather than as a complete video calling solution–the doodles and stickers offered on both versions are pretty much the high points.
That said, the platform is easy to navigate and, despite having a very cluttered call screen, the HD visuals are industry standard. There are certainly enough features to keep kids entertained, especially the ability to draw on live images and quickly record live chats.
If you’re looking for a way to introduce your kids to social media and video calling, then JusTalk Kids is a fine choice. There is very little chance they’ll be able to stray into unsafe online territory–provided you trust them not to use the phone or tablet’s search engine outside the app–and next to no risk of outsiders getting in contact with them. Of course, there are far more impressive video chat apps out there, so the real appeal is the ability to leave young ones unattended online.
Just keep in mind the culture you’re immersing them in. Research suggests that video calling in itself can be a positive experience for young children, but with any online app comes more than just talking. Going digital changes the dynamic of a conversation, and the relative anonymity can enable aggressive behavior.
Ask yourself if your kids are ready to take their relationships into the digital realm, even if they are sharing that space only with close friends. And remember that the JusTalk Kids video chat app is a set of digital training wheels that limits the true effects of social media. At some point, your young ones are going to want to explore the wider world of the web, especially once they’ve mastered the fundamentals, and then things are going to get a little wobbly…it’s a good idea to let them know what’s coming.