For families who are co-parenting through the Coronavirus pandemic life just got harder. With parenting plans going out the window due to health risks or logistics issues, some kids and parents are having to live apart for much longer than is the norm.
Any change to a routine is difficult for children but not being able to see and hug a parent during the COVID-19 outbreak is especially worrying for them. They will be understandably concerned about the welfare for the parent they cannot physically be with.
One of the very best ways to ease their anxiety is to create regular online contact between your child and their other parent. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to do this, and some are really quite fun. Being able to see Mum or Dad, albeit on a screen, is second best to seeing them in person and will help them to feel connected and confident that they are well and safe.
One of the best apps for kids to chat to parents during isolation is the old standby, Skype. It’s available on mobile, desktops, Xbox One and PlayStation Vita. Skype is fairly easy to use and supports texts and video calls. There are emojis and backgrounds to make chats fun, as well as a Highlights reel like Snapchat stories to show a child’s activities. Skype is also great to use in the classroom if you’re a teacher or counselor. You can integrate lesson plans, invite speakers for lectures, connect with other classrooms to solve mysteries, and more.
Skype has an interface that’s easy to navigate for kids, but it’s a buggy app especially if you’re on a video call over a slow connection. Still, it’s free to use, secure and works well with a bit of troubleshooting. Go for the paid version if you need more advanced features.
Apple users are familiar with FaceTime, the pre-installed chat and video call app on iPhones, iPads and Macs. FaceTime is completely free and lets kids chat with family and friends from all over the world over WiFi or cellular data. FaceTime stands out from other similar apps with its HD quality video calls that can reach up to 720p on Macs, most noticeable if you have a strong broadband connection. We like that kids can still receive calls even if FaceTime isn’t running, which is great for emergencies.
FaceTime is easy to use with lots of fun features that makes communication fun, and the high def video is a big plus. You can chat with multiple people at the same time, but it works best one-on-one calls. You also need an Apple device.
Zoom is a top video conferencing tool (over 200 million participants in March 2020) that lets you invite up to a 100 people for meetings and classes. While kids can use it to chat and connect with family, it’s designed for businesses, schools and educators. Many teachers around the world use Zoom to teach students during the quarantine. Covid-19 has made Zoom the number one app for online classes and work from home video calls, but it’s been under fire lately over privacy and security issues.
The free version of Zoom is more than enough if you’re only using it to chat with friends and family. Just make sure to protect video calls with a password to prevent strangers from dropping in. There’s also a 40-minute limit to video calls on the free version.
HouseParty is a fun video communication app that lets kids play games while chatting with other people. You can invite the entire family (up to 8 people) for a video party or just to chat. HouseParty has lots of games to play, including Heads Up, Chips and Guac (like Cards Against Humanity) and Quick Draw (like Pictionary). These definitely appeal to young adults, teens, and kids.
The app is easy to use if you’re used to similar communication tools, but newbies might need time to get used to the interface. HouseParty is free to use, but you need to pay for additional features like games. This is a fun up if you have kids and teens stuck in the house.
GoTalk is a video chat tool for mobile and desktop that requires no sign ups or software installation for people you invite to conference calls. Simply share a link through text or social media, and family members click on the link to join the call. It’s super simple to use and perfect for younger kids and grandparents who are not tech savvy.
GoTalk works best on Chrome in Windows, Mac and Android. Apple users must use the Safari browser to avoid lags in streaming. The basic app is free, and the premium version starts at $7.99. The free version is good enough for personal use, but you can only invite up to 3 people. You also need a strong Internet connection for smooth streaming.
Booyah is the video chat extension for the popular WhatsApp messaging app for Android users. This was launched before WhatsApp introduced the video call feature in 2018. If you’re still using the old version, you’ll need Booyah if you want video conferencing.
Like FaceTime, Booyah lets you chat with multiple people at the same time. Simply send a link to invite up to 12 people for the video chat. No need for guests to sign up. You can import contacts from WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Booyah is free and designed for Android users who have the old version of WhatsApp. Just update to the new version if you don’t want the hassle of installing this extension.
Airtime is another fun communication app for kids. It lets them chat while watching YouTube, movies and TV shows. They can also listen to music, share photos, share the videos they are watching and customise their screens with animated stickers. Parents can create private rooms for different people (you can invite up to 10 people for a conference) and events.
Airtime is easy to set up and easy to use, but it collects a lot of data based on what you share with others. Parental supervision is also required for younger kids who might be exposed to adult content otherwise. Overall, Airtime is a fun way for kids, teens and young adults to chat with friends and family.
Whereby is a desktop collaboration tool designed for professionals and businesses. For families, the free version with limited features is good enough for daily chats and video calls. There’s no need for guests to sign in or download the software; they can connect right away and start chatting by clicking the link you sent. There are some fun emojis for kids and YouTube integration.
Whereby is easy to use and set up. It’s an excellent communication app if your family uses a desktop or laptop, as there’s no mobile version available. If the rooms are not locked, strangers can easily join group calls intentionally or by mistake. The free version also limits you to 4 people and a single meeting room.