What is Marco Polo?
In the world of COVID-19, Marco Polo is making a massive comeback, enabling people to feel close while practicing #socialdistancing.
The Marco Polo Video Walkie Talkie app might signal the end to actually making phone calls. In fact, one of their marketing statements is, “Bye-bye phone tag and awkward voicemails…and hello Marco Polo!” This app allows you to send quick video messages reminiscent of the NEXTEL phones of the early 2000’s, but in video format. These short videos are called Polos.
Marco Polo’s corporate website: https://www.marcopolo.me/
The app borrows Snapchat-like functionalities with face filters and fun ways to draw on yourself prior to initiating the video chat. Unlike Snapchat, the videos don’t disappear, which allows you to keep a running record of your conversations. Similar to the call-response childhood pool game, the Marco Polo app encourages quick, bite-sized, “call-response” conversations with the people you love.
Category: Social Networking
APP Store rating: 4+ (no objectionable material)
What do parents need to know about Marco Polo?
The app is fun! And, pretty low-risk from our limited testing. There doesn’t seem to be a way for strangers to access you. In other words, the Polos waiting to be viewed are from your friends/contacts. The app can be used by both Apple and Android families, which makes it attractive to groups of friends who have both platforms.
How do I set up a group on Marco Polo?
- Tap “Chats” in the bottom menu of the app
- Tap “Create a group”
- Tap “Add from Contacts” to add people one at a time. **Do not tap “Allow Contact Access” unless you want to risk Marco Polo blasting your entire contact list with notifications (which it has been known to do – see below).
The app might spam your contacts if you’re not careful. The app really, really wants to ping your entire contact list in order to determine who has a Marco Polo account. It can get annoying. You can skip (and continue to skip) this step during the set-up process. Then, you can add contacts to a group, as explained above, or just add them one at a time, as shown below:
Hidden Google access? Not that we can find, not even in the Privacy Rules or Terms and Conditions on an iPhone, which is unusual. If you find access through some obscure path, please let us know.
Beware of the subscription – prevent in-app purchase. The subscription is not needed. The free version of the app is fine. As of May 2020, an updated subscription program was launched with more enticing features like HD video, custom emoji, and voice-only messaging. Again, the free version is really all that is needed 🙂
Way too many notifications, so turn them down. There are a few toggles that can decrease the number of notification. Follow the instructions below.
The bottom line – is Marco Polo safe?
Yes, we believe that Marco Polo is low-risk and most kids should be able to handle it. Similar to Netflix Party, a new social way to watch movies with friends, just make sure your kid isn’t sharing their Marco Polo account link with complete strangers (common sense, right?!). A few users have speculated that Marco Polo “listens” to the Polos and then sells user data based on things that are mentioned. Is this possible? Sure. We just haven’t found much evidence to support the assertion.
Now What? Have you Heard of Bark?
Are you interested in having greater insight into the social media platforms that your kids are using? Bark is one of the best platforms we’ve tested. They’re constantly looking for ways to dig further into apps like Marco Polo, to alert parents of anything problematic. We trust them and we think you should, too!
*There are affiliate links throughout this post because we’ve tested and trust a small list of parental control solutions. Our work saves you time! If you decide that you agree with us, then we may earn a small commission, which does nothing to your price. Enjoy!
I love life. Seriously! Each. Day. A. Gift. Former CPA, business advisor, youth pastor, development director. Manage marketing efforts for Covenant Eyes and CEO of PYE. God shares wild ideas with me about life while I run. I have a relentless drive to help families use technology well.