One of the most common concerns parents raise with us during our seminars at schools throughout the country is worry about what kind of apps and online games their children are accessing. With a growing number of messaging apps available parents can feel overwhelmed and it can undoubtedly be a challenge to keep up with developments in apps and games.

One of the most recent messaging apps has been launched recently by Google and is called Allo. Google Allo is essentially a messaging app that allows users to send messages to  other users. Google allo also offers a large range of ‘stickers’ that can add to the conversations that people are having. A huge difference between Google Allo and other messaging apps, is the availability of the Google Assistant, as part of the app. The Assistant is a feature, for android users, where the person using the app can ask a question and the assistant will answer it for them. Messaging apps are particularly popular among older children. Our findings from the most recent Zeeko All Ireland Trend Report, found that 57% of 6th class pupils were using Snapchat and the same percentage were using Instagram. The range of features on Google Allo, make it particularly attractive to young people who like to use messaging as a way of communicating. It is particularly important that parents are aware of the safety settings in relation to Google Allo. Google do take security seriously and the messages sent via Allo are encrypted. Having said that in order for the app to work properly it will look for quite comprehensive access to contacts and location on your device. Also, the search option on Google Allo is unfiltered which can be a challenge for parents. There is also an incognito chat option, that needs less access to your contacts but is currently not possible to be monitored by, for example, a parent.

The use of messaging and the artificial intelligence used by the Google Assistant is a new development in digital communication, as a parent what do you need to remind your child of in order to remain safe, when using Allo, or indeed any other messaging app?

Remember to make sure that any digital device your child has access to has safety settings in place. While safety settings are not a 100% protection they are certainly a step in the right direction. In particular they are helpful for younger children who may have access to your smartphone. If you have a messaging app installed and you would not like them to have access to it.

For older children who may use a messaging app, remind them that what they are sharing, even with friends via messaging is not always as private as they may think. Screenshots of conversations can be taken pretty easily and then shared again. Remember to also encourage more traditional forms of communication, i.e. talking to their friends face to face, and encouraging a break from screentime.

As your child grows older they are more likely to start and continue to use a messaging app, by reminding them of the importance of staying safe when they message you are helping to ensure that your child is aware of the potential pitfalls ofTwitter digital communication and how best they can stay safe.

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The Zeeko Internet Safety Guide offers more comprehensive advice on helping to keep your child safe online. You can buy a copy of the book here.