Recently, the tragic murder of a 13-year-old girl highlighted the dangers of anonymous messaging apps, like Kik. In this case, the young girl met the 18-year-old accused, on Facebook but their relationship grew on Kik. Unfortunately, this was not the only incident of an adult misusing Kik. In the past month, police reported adults targeting children on Kik in an attempt to attain inappropriate photos.
According to Kik, over 40% of American youth use their app to chat, browse and share with their friends. While popular with kids, most parents are unaware of Kik and miss to learn how to protect kids on Kik. Kik does work well for messaging and sharing with friends. Kids may find more than just friends wanting to connect with them.
By downloading this app, kids have free, unlimited messaging. Kik is more than simply sending a friend a text. Within Kik, teens can play games, watch videos, listen to music and visit websites. They can also share videos, pictures, GIFs or their own drawings with a friend or within a group chat.
Teens prefer messaging apps for group chats. With these apps, the type of device does not matter. Teens can easily exchange messages and content with their friends regardless of whether it is an Android or Apple device.
Kik works well if kids limit their contacts to only friends and family. Where kids can run into problems is when they share their private Kik username on other social networks. Their username is their permanent Kik identification. This means anyone with their username can send them a message. It makes Kik not safe for kids.
Teens are sharing their personal Kik username on public social networks. Instagram, Reddit and Twitter are full of #Kikme requests with teens posting their usernames. Kids often choose the same username for all of their social media accounts. For some teens, their private Kik username is the same as their public Instagram account.
Kik does not have private and public accounts like Instagram or Twitter and there’s no KIK parental controls. The only way to control who contacts them is by controlling who knows their username. Kik does not allow users to change their username.
Teens should be wary of new contacts. What makes this app attractive to nefarious adults is the complete anonymity. Anyone can be anyone on Kik. In some cases, the person may not be real. Kik also has a problem with porn bots. These bots send inappropriate messages to entice users to a dating or porn site. It makes cell phone parental controls a must-have for concerned parents.
How to monitor Kik
The only way for parents to monitor Kik messages is by going on their child’s phone. Parents cannot share an account with their child. In fact, if a parents attempts to log on to their child’s account from their own phone, Kik erases all the messages. Even when parents look at Kik from their child’s phone, they will only see the last 200 to 1000 messages. The number of messages they see depends on the device and if their kid deletes them.
Even robust parental control software, like Familoop Safeguard, cannot monitor Kik. As Kik explains, “using Kik is similar to making a phone call – we may have a record of messages being sent and received, but we never see or save the text of the messages between our users.” This makes it difficult for parents to oversee their child’s use of the anonymous messaging app and protect their kids on Kik.
How to protect kids on Kik
Kik is rated 17+. Within Kik, users can share all types of content in private messaging or a group chat. This app is best left to older teens. Before downloading Kik, parents should share these tips with their teen on how to stay safe.
- Choose a unique username - The best protection is a strong username. When choosing a username, teens should treat it like creating a password – long, strong and not easy to guess. Their username should be unique and only used for Kik. Teens should never post it on another social network or share it beyond their friends and family.
- Ignore unwanted contacts - If a teen does receive a message from a stranger, they should not respond. These messages first appear in the “New Chats” area. Here, profile pics are blurred and a teen will not see the message unless they open it. The safest choice is to delete all these messages without reading them.
- Block and Report - In their settings under privacy, teens can choose to block a person. When they block someone, Kik hides all the messages and deletes all conversations from this person. The blocked person is permanently removed from their contact list. Teens can also report a person by tapping on their profile picture or sending a message to Kik Support.
- Think before you share - Although Kik does not save content, friends can take screenshots of conversations. Copies of Kik chats do appear on Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube. Nothing is ever truly private online so remind teens to be careful about what they choose to share.
Because of the difficulty of checking in on this anonymous messaging app, parents may decide their child is not ready for Kik. Kik is rated for teens on Google Play and 17+ on the App Store. Because of the high rating, this is the app to block.
With Familoop Safeguard, parents can stop kids from using Kik. Familoop Safeguard automatically blocks age-inappropriate apps based on a child’s age. As soon as a family signs up, Familoop Safeguard limits access to apps and content rated for older users.
If later a family decides to allow Kik, parents can adjust the settings. Before downloading, families should talk about the importance of keeping their username private and controlling unwanted contacts. By talking first and downloading later, families can prevent trouble instead of reacting to problems.
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