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 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.
How do Skype accounts work?
There are no longer separate Skype accounts. In the UK, there is no minimum age to create a Microsoft Managed Service (MSA) account. This was previously known as a Live ID or Microsoft passport. This account signs a user up to several services, including Skype.
You could add your child to your own Microsoft Account through the Family Safety settings. You can do this here through the Microsoft account website. Once accepted by your child, you can then add Skype to the list of apps either allowed or not allowed.
If you want to close an existing Skype account, you will need to close the entire MSA account which means deleting all data. Here is some more information on the account deletion process.
If it is your child’s account that you want to close because they are under 13, then you would need to speak to them about accessing their account so you can sign in and close it.
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. The person being blocked will not be notified. You will just appear to be offline.
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.
Skype pretty much offers what you need to keep in touch, much of it free. You have to pay for phone calls.
You can get a subscription from the UK for mobiles and landlines from £1.20 a month or there is the pay-as-you-go option with calls to mobiles 9.1p/min and 2.1p/min for landlines. You can also gift Skype credit to other users, this is a pay-as-you-go option.
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.
There is also nothing to stop young children creating their own Skype account at any age as there is no minimum age required to set up an MSA. 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.
Updated January 2018