What is Marco Polo? How do I use it?

What is the Marco Polo App? Parents of teenagers ask this question, so at Ministry to Parents, we offer a tutorial to explain how the app works.

What Is It?

Perhaps you are reading this post because you saw the title and thought, “How could they make an app based on the classic swimming pool game?” Well, not quite, but close!

Marco Polo is a social media app primarily used for video messaging. Think “texting” but with short quick videos to a single person or a group. Similar to calling out into an open pool, “Marco” users can send a video into the depths of their world and see what kind of responses they get back. Let’s take a look at how this app works!

How Does It Work?


A user of Marco Polo must have the phone number to connect with other users, which creates a more-safe, social media option. When a student narrows the interaction with a pool of potential people, they can somewhat control parts of the social media app.

However, the app asks to access the contacts to create a friendly user-experience. But some users shared an experience where advertisers contacted them, or they received a text.

Marco Polo claims they do not sell information, but some users have had issues in the past.

Video Messages: Are They Like SnapChat?

Yes and No. Marco Polo uses video messages as the primary way to use the app. Filters, voice alterations, and text overlay are also options, similar to SnapChat and other messaging apps. However, the difference is these videos don’t disappear. The videos are saved in the chat for users to go back and watch again. This feature offers an element of accountability because parents can review videos whenever needed.

  • Users put in their phone number to create an account. Marco Polo sends a verification text for account authentication.
  • Next, users choose standard options to allow push notifications and access contacts. When I set up my account, I did not allow this because I wanted to put in the phone numbers manually.
  • Once you verify and connect with contacts or a specific number, you can start a chat. Chats are either 1:1 or in a group.
  • Chats appear in a list format with the top section reserved for your “Favorites.”
  • Once you start a few chats, tag certain users as favorites for quicker access.
  • Marco Polo describes itself as a “Video Walkie Talkie,” and that is very accurate. Quick messages allow users to share a thought, idea, or information.
How To Use This App

Teenagers use this app to connect personally. It’s a longer-lasting experience compared to other video message apps because the videos don’t disappear. Many students find this a better experience than “text” because they can see one another and interact more visually.

Marco Polo is a great way for grandparents, parents, and teens to “spend time together” without actually being together. My family and I have groups where we share news and information. If you are a family struggling to keep up the connection and communication, this app might be a more natural fit for your schedule or lack of proximity to family.


Just like any social media app, users can work this technology inappropriately. They can delete saved videos in the chats and erase content. If you are a concerned parent about how your student uses the app, invite them to include you in their conversations. This request may be an extreme example, but it ensures the content they send and watch is something you see as well.

Another guideline is that parents must approve with whom the student connects. Depending on your student, you as the parent know the best way to be involved in your student’s life.

Wrap It Up

Overall, this is a great app that allows people to connect face-to-face, just not in real-time. It’s a way to communicate with people when it is convenient for each of the users. For many people, it’s a toned-down version of SnapChat, creating more opportunities for parents to offer social media to their students. If anything, this may be an app your family uses to stay close together with one another!

Also, if you missed our tutorial for parents on TikTok, click HERE to learn more!


Tony Bianco has been in Student Ministry for over ten years with his wife Diamend with whom they have two amazing kids. He is a former Radio DJ, Technology Reviewer, GameStop Manager, Apple Store Expert, and the author of The Family Technology Plan. You can contact Tony at www.familytechnologyplan.com.


For more on technology, check out:

How To Monitor Technology: A Review on How to Use Bark

How to Use TikTok to Connect with Kids

6 Stats On Teens & Social Media

Parent’s Guide to Texting

Sneaky Suspects: How To Help Parents with Teenagers and Screens

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