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Skype

What is it?

Skype is a real time video messaging service. It also offers phone calls, texts and pre-recorded video messages. Users can customise their different chats with an array of colours and can respond to messages with simple emoji reactions.

There is now an option to create a 'Highlights' reel, similar to a Snapchat story, that shows a person's daily acitivities and it can be viewed and commented by the user's contacts list.

It is available for desktops, mobile phones and tablets, Xbox One and Playstation Vita. Download here or go to the App Store or Google Play.

Cost: Free for the app. Some features are paid for.

What they say

‘Skype keeps the world talking. Video call, message and share with anyone for free, even if they're not on Skype.’

What’s the reality?

When a brand becomes a verb you know it’s arrived and, as in Hoover, Biro and Google before, we now universally refer to video calling as Skyping. For good reason. Skype - give or take a dodgy broadband connection - works, and once you've mastered it, is easy and free to use.

You can set up a Skype account and name, or, as it’s now owned by Microsoft, you can access it through your Outlook or Hotmail email address.

Download it to use on online or via modified apps for mobile devices.

What parents need to know

Skype's terms and conditions state: 'Skype's websites and software are not intended for or designed to attract users under the age of 13.'

Skype is an unmoderated service, which means no one will be checking on who is talking to your child or what they are talking to them about when they are using the service.

When you download the app, only people on your contact list will be able to see your picture, if you upload one, or share their screen or video with you. However, anyone who searches for you can call you or send you an instant message.

If someone you don’t know or don’t want to connect with contacts you, you have the option to ignore or report them. Skype stores the Skype name of the person reported for abuse, but not the content of any message or contact made.

Reporting any concerns

You can block or report someone on Skype but they don't make it easy. There is no report button to click on while making a call and no obvious link. We had to search for 'report' and 'block' to find the instructions.

Desktop: Sign in and click on Contacts in the side menu and then, to the right, click Skype. Find the contact you want to block. Right-click the contact’s name (on a Mac, ctrl click) and choose Block… You are also offered the option to Report abuse from this person. Click this if you wish to alert Skype to the user’s actions.

Mobile (OS): Go to Search at the top of the screen and tap on the contact’s name you’d like to block. In the drop-down menu, tap View profile. Select either Block or Remove contact. You may need to scroll down to see it.

Mobile (Android): To block a contact: Start Skype. Go to People, tap and hold the contact you’d like to block. Tap Block contact. Tap OK.

Pros

Skype pretty much offers everything you need to keep in touch, much of it free. You have to pay for phone calls (a subscription from the UK for mobiles and landlines costs £1.55 a month) or pay as you go for 1.8p/minute to landlines, 7.6p/minute to mobiles.

Cons

While you can’t save images or record video calls, people can take screen grabs or set up webcams to record whatever is on screen. So young users in particular need to keep this in mind and not say or do anything they wouldn’t want their friends or parents to find out about.

Because Skype is unmoderated, there is nothing to stop adults meeting children on other sites and then exchanging details to move to Skype to communicate with children.[1]

There is also nothing to stop young children creating their own Skype account at any age. We created a new Outlook account to set up Skype and at no time were we asked to verify our age. You do need to provide an alternative email address and phone number, but neither of these were checked when we registered.

It is also very easy to call someone by mistake if you are clicking on their Contact information to remove or block them, so take care. We managed to call someone we were trying to block when we tested it.

Parent Zones verdict

Easy to use, Skype loses marks for its lack of obvious and accessible reporting and blocking features.

 

Updated July 2017.

[1] Justin Bieber impostor' on 931 child sex-related charges