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Social Media Highlight: Skype

Skype Overview

Skype is a free messaging, and video and voice calling app that lets you send images, video, text, audio, or documents. Communication from Skype to Skype users is free; SMS and calls to phones are premium features that require one time payment or a subscription plan. Users can make groups, which allow messaging, and audio calls for up to 25 people. The maximum number of users for video calls depends on the platform.

Skype works on Windows, Mac desktops and Linux desktops, Windows Phone, Android and iOS, and is owned by Microsoft. Users must sign in to Skype with a Skype account, which is a Microsoft account. To create an account, users under the age of majority need parental consent. It’s not clear to me whether or not children under 13 are allowed to sign up for the service according to the terms of use. I find the statement about age on the same page to be oblique: “Skype’s websites and software are not intended for or designed to attract users under the age of 13.”

Why Kids Like Skype

Skype is similar to WhatsApp but works on many more platforms. It works just as well, if not better, on a laptop as on a tablet or smart phone. It’s easy to use Skype, and convenient to have it on in the background while working on the laptop. Some kids use if for discussing homework and getting help from peers. Kids also like to use Skype to hang out with each other,

Dangers of Skype

There are few dangers of children accidentally stumbling across inappropriate content in the app, although they may get message and contact requests from strangers, particularly if their profile is publicly searchable. Possible dangers in using WhatsApp include:

  • Conversations that start in games or in social media my move to Skype.
  • Predators who groom children in social media apps, usually move to messaging tools like Skype when they have built trust.
  • It’s easy for strangers to find and contact you if you keep discoverability on.
  • Interested users can use Skype to explore sexting.
  • It’s easy for users to share locations with other users.
  • Teens may use the messaging app to bully each other or to be mean, such as excluding a peer from a Skype group.
  • There are built-in, targeted advertisements in the free version of Skype.

Make Skype Safer

Skype has some limited built in features to make it safer for kids to use. There are also settings that parents and children can work to verify, to maximize security and privacy.

  • Create and manage the Skype account for your young child. Also, learn about Skype features and how to use Skype.
  • Change privacy settings so only contacts can see the picture, turn off automatically add friends, and turn off streaming media.
  • Turn off discoverability so that people don’t find you in search, nor in suggestions.
  • Modify profile on a desktop computer to determine who can see your profile.
  • Block or delete users, as needed, or report inappropriate messaging.
  • Only allow calls and messages from contacts.
  • Disallow Microsoft targeted ads.
  • Talk about sexting with children, and help them understand the dangers.
  • Monitor use and talk to your child openly about their use of Skype.
  • Speak to your child about how grooming, and other online dangers, and keep the lines of communication open. Ask them to let you know about interactions with friends who they haven’t met offline.
  • Turn off location access.
  • To learn more about this topic, see reviews from Parent ZoneCommon Sense Media, and NSPCC NetAware.

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