Social networks, apps and games
app-icons-GoogleHangouts

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a free messaging platform that lets you message contacts over text, audio and video, either one on one or in a group. You need a mobile number to sign up on your phone and a Gmail account to sign up on your laptop or desktop.

13+

Official age rating

Kids use this to...

Play

Create

Learn

Connect

Our safety ratings

Overall safety rating:

Our overall rating for Google Hangouts

Poor

While you can change the settings to stop people you don’t know sending you invitations to chat, there have been reports of young people receiving inappropriate messages on the platform from spam accounts. For this reason we don’t think it’s suitable for anyone under the age of 18 without supervision.

Safety features

You need a Google account and to be 13+ to sign into Hangouts.

There’s no privacy settings related specifically to Hangouts but Google has information for parents and carers about how they can keep their child safe if they have a Google account.

Privacy & location

People can automatically chat with you if they have your email address or phone number.

You can choose who can contact you directly in your account settings and set it so people have to send you an invitation to chat. You can also set it so people can’t contact you.

You can’t share your location via Hangouts.

Reporting & blocking

You can easily block another user on Hangouts and there is an option to report conversations.

When you report someone for abuse, Google automatically sends the last 10 pages of your conversation with the user for its team to review.

Content

On the Google forum pages there are lots of reports about children being sent inappropriate and sexually explicit content.

Even if you set your account so people can’t contact you directly there’s still no guarantee Google will filter out messages kids could find upsetting.

O2 Guru top tip

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On Google Hangouts privacy settings

Explore the privacy settings with your child and show them how to block users in the settings.

Top tips for staying safe

Sitting down with your child and exploring their favourite app or game is a great way for you to learn more about what they like to do online.

You can ask them why they like to use an app or play certain games, as well as who they’re talking to and what sorts of things they’re sharing.

You can also read our Net Aware reviews for tips on how to keep kids safe on popular apps, sites and games.

Help your child think about what they share online and who sees it. Compare it to what they would be happy to share offline.

Use examples that are easy for them to understand: “You shouldn't give your number to somebody you don't know on the street. Is somebody online you don't know any different?”

Listen to their answers. And be positive and encouraging.

Remind them that they shouldn’t share private things, such as:

  • personal information, like names, emails, phone numbers, location and school names
  • other people's personal information
  • links to join private group chats
  • photos of themselves
  • photos of their body, such as sexual photos or videos.

Explain that you understand the internet is a great place to play, create, learn and connect. But remind them they can talk to you if anything upsets or worries them.

Reassure them that you won’t overreact – you’re just looking out for them.

It’s important to remind your child that they can talk you, another adult they trust, like a teacher, or Childline about anything they see online.

If your child receives an upsetting message on Google Hangouts they might want to report or block the person who sent it.

To do this you need to:

1. Select the person from the Hangouts contact list to open the conversation.

2. At the top of the conversation, select Settings Block & Report . To report abuse, select the “Also report” checkbox.

3. Click Confirm.

We would recommend switching of Hangout requests so people your child doesn’t know can’t invite them to join a conversation. To do this you need to:

1. Go to settings in the left hand corner of the screen.

2. Select customise invite settings.

3. Choose ‘Can’t send invites’.

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Talking to your child

Having open, regular conversations with your child will help you to really understand and explore the online world together. Our tips and advice can help you start these conversations.

Talk about staying safe online

What children and parents are saying about Google Hangouts

We've spoken to over 2,000 parents and kids to find out what they think.

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Kids

What do children and young people dislike about Google Hangouts?

• Being contacted by people you don’t know

A person can only talk to you if they know your email or you tell them your email. You can block the person anytime, if they start to bother you.

Boy, 15

What do children and young people like about Google Hangouts?
• It’s easy to block people
• It’s an easy way to communicate with friends
• It’s free to call and message using WiFi

As long as you use it to text your friends or someone you know you will be safe.

Boy, 14

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Parents

We asked parents about the following areas of Google Hangouts:

Signing up

It was fairly easy but needed to have a [phone] number to validate which is good as you can't just put a random one in.

Father of three

If the child has access to an adult phone with no supervision then there could be an issue, as a child would have to have access to an adult verified account to sign up.

Dad of 7 and 9 year old girls

Reporting

I could easily find out how to block people but reporting inappropriate behaviour had to be searched for in the Help section.

Mother of 13 and 16 year old boys

Privacy settings

You cannot change your privacy or location settings within Google Hangouts. You have to do that from your phone's settings.

Mum of three

Safety and support

[Rules and community support] could be more visible for users.

Dad of 14 and 18 year olds

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