With more than 50 million users, and reportedly growing by 20,000 everyday, Kik has become one of the most popular messaging apps on the market. It is widely used as a messaging portal between those who want to connect privately off of other social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). But more importantly, it has become quite popular among our kids.
Why? Well, as a private messenger app, Kik is coveted by those under 18 for a number of reasons. It is seemingly a safer way of connecting for kids as users connect via usernames so those you are connecting with cannot see your phone number. Kik messages are sent privately across the app and will not show up on your phone bill since they are not recorded as text messages. This allows kids to send private messages that their parents can’t gain access to without a login. And most parents don’t even know the app exists, which allows kids to go even further under the radar.
What do you know about the people your kids are chatting with on Kik? Not much besides a username, full name, image and an email, none of which can be verified. So how do you know if your kids are talking to kids their own age, friends, or stalkers and other predators hiding their identity? You don’t.
The blog post “Kik Me” – The Apps Your Kids Are Using Now: Kik takes a look at how this poses a number of privacy issues for both parents and children, including:
- Once the app is open it continues to run in the background, even if you leave it to use another app. This keeps your device open to messages from any users that choose to connect on the app.
- There is very little you can do to verify the identity of someone on Kik.
- Upon downloading the app, a popup message appears asking for confirmation that the user is 17 or older. No additional verification is required than selecting the OK button. This opens the door to content you probably don’t want your child viewing.
Additionally, with the Capture feature your kids could be viewing or sharing inappropriate images that you have no knowledge of at the time. And once those images are out there, they are out there, forever.
Your safest bet is probably to have your child erase Kik from their phone. There is no sure fire method to ensure that the images and messages that your children receive are age appropriate—most likely, they are not considering the warning before download.
However, if you decide to let them keep the app, here are a few tips to increase their safety in using the app:
- Have them keep their Kik username private—Do not post this username on other social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).
- Check that they’re not connecting with people they don’t know outside of the app.
- Don’t let your children download apps using your own passcode (if they’re using your phone). If they have their own phone, keep track of what apps they’ve downloaded.
- Have them select “Ignore New People” in the apps notifications menu, which allows you to block new follower messages.
- Make sure you go over the list of your children’s social media contacts. You would want to meet your child’s friend in the real world, why not on the Internet?
- As with any other app you would download, read the reviews and ratings before downloading. You never know what you might discover.
- Look up any news on the application from trusted sources.