A cross-platform alternative to both iMessage and Messenger is Xooloo Messenger. It’s designed specifically for younger kids between six and 13 and allows them to send messages to each other along with stickers.

It doesn’t require a phone number like WhatsApp, so can be installed on tablets as well as phones. Given that it’s for kids, it’s a real shame that it’s not on the Amazon Appstore: it’s only on Android and iOS. Xooloo doesn’t have any plans to bring it to Amazon devices, but you can install the Google Play store on Fire tablets.

Parents are in full control, so long as they supervise installation of the app on their kids’ devices. That’s because parental consent is only required if they’re under 13, but it’s simple to choose any birthdate over that age.

The app also needs to be installed on a parent-owned device, as this is where the kids’ accounts are managed. You’ll get an SMS when a child installs the app on a new device, and messages will arrive in-app when they request to add a friend so you can approve who they can communicate with.

In terms of features, the app intentionally limits communication to text and stickers / animations. There’s no video calling or voice messages. It's also not available in every country, but it is in Europe which is where there's currently a Messenger Kids-size hole.

Obviously, your kid’s friends will need to have the app as well in order to chat, so it may be a case of asking their parents to install it.

Xooloo xavatars

I let my kids try it out and they weren’t too impressed with the Xavatars, claiming they didn’t look enough like them and that there weren’t enough different hairstyles. However, the point of the app is to offer them a way to chat with their friends which they wouldn’t ordinarily have.

The other missing feature they grumbled about was read receipts, as otherwise they can’t know when their friends had seen messages.

There are no ads, no in-app purchases, and despite the app itself being free, the developers say they won’t collect any data about your kids and sell it to third parties. The only slightly concerning parts of the privacy policy is these:

“Messages exchanged during conversation are stored for technical reason and not exploited for any reason whatsoever.”

“We follow generally accepted industry standards to protect the Personal Information submitted to us, both during its transmission and storage. However, no method of transmission over the Internet, or method of electronic storage, is 100% secure. Therefore, we cannot guarantee its absolute security.”

Ultimately, Xooloo is just covering its back, but the fact that no encryption is used (or not claimed to be used) means it isn’t necessarily as safe as it could be. Kids can also create wishlists of gifts from vetted third-party websites.

So long as you’re happy with all this, Xooloo is a safer alternative to letting your kids loose on full-blown social media and is one of the only real options until Messenger Kids arrives in Europe.