Most Parents are familiar with WhatsApp. If you’re one of those parents, then explaining Kik Messenger and how it works should be pretty straightforward.
As always with our Online Safety blogs we like to keep it simple. Just letting parents and carers know what they need to know – in order to start a conversation when it comes to Online Safety.
Conversations are very important when it comes to Online Safety
What is Kik Messenger?
As we mentioned above, Kik Messenger is similar to other message apps -with a few other features thrown in. We’ve reviewed features in the past of WhatsApp or Viber – if you missed those articles make sure to click on the links above for a quick read.
Kik has been in the news recently in Ireland. According to an article in the Irish Independent the app has been branded by US law officials as the ‘de facto’ messaging app for child sex predators using it to groom underage children online.
Kik messenger was launched in 2009 and has over 300 million users worldwide. Kik is ranked as a Top Ten app with teens in the United States. Over 70% of Kik users are aged between 13 and 24 years old.
One of the main differences of Kik compared to other messaging apps, is the ability to send messages to users without first approving them on a friend or contact list.
Other features of Kik Messenger include:
• Find People – either by Username, Phone Contact or Kik Code. You can also follow bots for example Big Brother Bot.
• Video Chat – Users can video chat live with their friends in a one-to-one chat, or with up to 6 friends at a time in a private group chat. They can join or leave a Video Chat by switching the Video Chat toggle on or off.
• Start a Group – Similar to other message apps users can create groups within Kik and invite others to the group – groups chats are popular within Kik and up to 49 other users can be added/invited to the group.
• Public Groups – Users can search for other groups they would like to join as well as looking at the popular searches.
Similar to other message apps users can send messages, videos, pictures, gifs, when chatting with other Kik users. Users need to be 13+ to join Kik but the app does have a 17+ rating in the App stores.
Children under the age of 13 are prohibited from having a Kik account. If your child is under 13 and has created a Kik account, parents and carers can submit a deactivation inquiry to Kik by emailing email@example.com. It’s important to use the subject line ‘Parent Inquiry’ and include your child’s Kik username and age in your message for this process.
Kik Bots and Web Pages
• Kik Bots – Kik is full of different bots which allow users to do quizzes, get fashion tips, news, advice there is even an InsulterBot.
• Discover Web Pages – From within Kik users can discover suggested web content
Safety Features within Kik
Kik do offer a number of safety features for users to have control over privacy and security settings. As with other apps the onus is very much on the user to set and update these. Kik users can also add users to a ‘block list’. Once a user has been added to the list any future messages from a user added will be hidden.
Kik Messenger does not however seem to have anything in place to prevent users from direct messaging other public group members or viewing another users profile.
When registering for an account on Kik the process is relatively straight forward. The only requirements are Name, Username, eMail, Password and Birthday. Adding a mobile number is optional. And not recommended.
What Parents need to be aware of:
In the US, Kik Messenger has become increasingly under pressure from law enforcement officials and concerned parent groups in relation to adults contacting children and not doing more to remove profiles of convicted child abusers.
A notable trend connecting Kik messenger to the Omegle ‘Chat with Strangers’ website is that users on Omegle are actively sharing their Kik username in order to attract users to connect with them from Omegle to Kik. This allows the conversation to be continued via the app and a Smartphone.
Reports of users using third-party apps to boost their profile on Kik resulting in hundreds of users contacting them reinforces the need for safety awareness for children and young people. Authorities say it’s popular amongst offenders as it’s ‘free, simple to set up, easily accessible, potentially anonymous and allows users to share digital data privately’. Though the same could be said for many apps out there.
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Wayne Denner is a speaker, author and expert on Online Reputation and Wellbeing. Wayne helps young people protect and improve their digital presence. Visit waynedenner.com for more information.