Why Parents Need to be Cautious About Kik
Kik is a free mobile messaging app. According to the company, 40% of U.S. teens use Kik to chat with friends.
Sounds safe enough for our social media savvy kids, right?
Well, messaging is just the tip of the iceberg. Once you're on Kik, you can send selfies, use emojis, and listen to music.
But it's just fun and games?
Mostly. Kik also has an internal web browser, and an assortment of native apps.
Ok, so what? My kid make memes?
Yes. And she can also chat with strangers.
Using internal apps like Flirt! Kik users can message strangers -- strangers who never have to provide any sort of legitimate identification or contact information.
Strangers who can pretend to be any age, and any body.
So, should parents be worried about their kids using the app?
Yes. There are multiple cases of predators using Kik to lure potential victims. Most recently, slain 13 year old Nicole Lovell
, who likely met her alleged killer on Kik.
Following this incident, Kik provided an updated guide for parents
available on its web site. The company also changed the age rating from 9+ to 12+.
But should kids be using it?
Stephen Balkam, founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute
, thinks probably not.
In a recent article, Balkam told The Guardian
, "As a parent, I would be very wary of a child of mine using an anonymous messaging app. Anonymity is an important part of free speech and dissent, but for minors it causes problems."
Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance
also speaking to The Guardian, agrees, "Kik is not designed to create a community of bad behavior, but there does tend to be bad behavior on anonymous apps. It’s a rough environment for young people to be in."
Additionally -- and perhaps most importantly -- Kaiser reminds parents that consistently speaking with our kids about their digital lives is essential to keeping them safe.
"Part of normal conversation is asking, ‘What happened at school?’ or ‘What happened on the playground? You have to have that same rapport for online, and ask, ‘What are you doing online?"