Why The Best Kids Apps Aren't Free

Kids In Touch Has Shutdown

I'm frequently asked why my messaging app for kids is not free. Many kids and parents love the app but balk at having to pay for using it after the free trial period expires.

There are really two major reasons this kid friendly texting app is not free. The first reason pertains to parents and their children. The second pertains to me personally. I'd love for you to read the entire article, but I understand you may not have time. At least please continue reading this next part.

Why Parents Should BEG to Pay for This Kid Friendly Texting App

There is a saying in the product / marketing world that goes like this :

If you aren't the customer, then you are the product.

What does that mean really? It means that if you aren't paying a company to provide the service you are using, they have to get paid some other way. When it comes to the internet, the alternative ways for a company to get paid are to show you advertisements and/or SELL YOUR PRIVATE INFORMATION to another company.

Do you really want your kids to use a texting app that collects information about them and sells it to various, unknown marketing agencies? Do you really want your kids to be bombarded by advertisements urging them to buy everything under the sun from toys to useless in-app baubles? Is saving a few dollars worth the cost of your kids being exposed to advertisements that range from violent games to sexually suggestive products?

If your aren't paying for your texting app, someone, somewhere is using your children's information to their own benefit. They are analyzing the photos and texts your kids send to you and their friends. They are performing sentiment analysis to decide how to better market to you and your children.

I strongly urge all parents to use kid-friendly apps that are not supported by advertising. I promise you that Kids In Touch does not review your children's photos or texts in any manner. With the exception of tracking usage of the app and logging user actions to aid in troubleshooting, the app isn't tracking you or your kids. It collects no location based information. Your private data isn't analyzed, "anonymized", nor sold to anyone. Kids In Touch is only funded by selling subscriptions to use the service.

Do you really want to trade your family's private information in exchange for free use of an app? Is the cost of a fast food meal realy worth losing your privacy when you use a "free" app? Should your kids really have to change their name when they're 18 to hide from the information companies have collected about them and will use against them?

NOTE: In the future, I may add automated text/photo analysis to alert parents of dangerous behavior such as bullying or sending sensitive photos. At no point will these messages or photos ever be seen by a person. Instead, computer algorithms will be used to identify problematic messages. I'll then notify parents of the issue and allow them to work with their children to learn safe, appropriate communication in the online world.

Why I Must Charge for this App

I would love to be in a financial position to make the app free for everyone. Unfortunately, this is just not possible. Let me explain why I must charge for the app:

In 2013, my wife received the devastating news that she had an aggressive form of breast cancer. Because we homeschool our kids and because my wife would be undergoing extensive treatment, I decided I needed to leave my job to care for her and our children. During her treatment and recovery, I worked away at this app in my free time.

As you can imagine, with no income and with medical bills mounting, our finances became quite strained. We burned through most of our savings including our retirement plans. Fortunatey, after a year of treatment and many surgeries, my wife was declared cancer free. What a relief!

At this point, I was almost finished with the first version of this texting app for kids. When it released on the app store, I had dreams of it being widely adopted and selling millions of copies. Unfortunately, that never happened. The app languished in the App Store and just had a small following. I had no choice but to begin working again. I picked up short contracts here and there. In the gaps between, I kept working on the app - adding features, fixing bugs.

Working full time, teaching my boys in the evenings, and improving the app in my spare time left no room for growing the app as a business. Now, two years later, the app has still had very limited success. Each month, I lose about $600 just paying the bills to keep all the services running that allow the app to work. I've put in over 2500 hours of work on developing a safe texting app for kids, keeping services running, and supporting customers.

To be a completely independent app developer supporting an app used by thousands of customers, I have to pay for these services each and every month:

At this point, it's clear that Kids In Touch is a labor of love rather than a profitable app. We use the app in my own family to keep in touch with friends and family locally and around the world. I am thrilled that something I've developed is helping countless families in 30+ countries stay in touch. I've heard from customers in war-torn countries that have sent their kids away for their safety. They are using Kids In Touch to text with their loved ones. Educators have told me how they are using the app to teach kids digital citizenship and safe texting practices. Divorced mothers and fathers use the app to stay part of their kids lives.

I'm touched by all these stories and am proud I'm part of something that improves others' lives. I'm also committed to continuing to improve the app and support new and existing customers. However, I can only do this if the app can at least support itself. Because of this, I must charge for continued use of the app after the trial period ends. I hope you can understand that. If you have an extenuating circumstance and simply can't afford the cost of the app, please let me know. I will gladly make arrangements for you to continue using it.

Kids In Touch Blog