Is Kik Messenger safe For Kids?

 

Kik Messenger is no longer JUST a messaging app, and is now rated 17+

Kik Messenger is constantly adding new “features” and changing settings, it now has a huge adult content spam problem. This post is growing and constantly being updated as new issues and features come to light.

I apologise for the long read, but Kik is far from a simple messaging app now, it is also host to over 400 apps. 

The YouTube video below was made in July 2014.  There are now over 400 apps within Kik Messenger and the “privacy settings” are now less secure.

Kik also contains access to over 400 unverified apps: This means your children using this app can enable other apps that you won’t know about! And many of them are “Chat With Stranger” apps. New Kik terms of service means that your child’s behaviour on this app can be passed on to 3rd party developers and they cannot guarantee the safety of apps that can connect and use Kik Messenger for kids. Read the new terms of service carefully. See updated below.

Is Kik Messaging Safe For Kids

What Is Kik?

Kik messenger is an incredibly popular free mobile messaging app with over 1 millions users.

What Are The Dangers?

Schools are reporting that more and more children under the recommended age of 17+ are signing up to use this app. Unfortunately Police and teachers are also reporting increased incidents of kids being approached by adults, being sent photos and videos of porn, and increasing incidents of bullying and sexting through Kik Messenger. I’m hearing more and more stories about children being blackmailed into sending adults nude photos. Strangers are threatening to upload a photoshopped picture of the child, if the child doesn’t send nude photos.

Why Is Kik Messenger So Popular With Younger Kids?

Kik Messenger is a convenient, simple & free SMS substitute, which unlike some other free internet messaging services, operates on all mobile platforms. The other thing that makes it very attractive to younger kids, is that it’s one of the only cross platform SMS style messaging apps that doesn’t require a phone number to be registered. For younger kids without a mobile phone this means they can use it on their mobile devices like iPods through Wi Fi. Skype and iMessage also have this ability.

Popup before downloading on iTunes

Popup before downloading on iTunes

Kik Messenger Is No Longer Rated 13+

Previously Kik Messenger was rated 13+ on the app stores. In November 2012, Kik introduced what are known as “cards” or apps within the app, and the age requirement was increased to 17+.

The cards are located either under the message bar, or behind a slide out panel behind the message bar 

Kik “Cards” Have Changed The Safety Level For Kids Substantially!

With the introduction of these internal apps called “cards” the developers rightly decided the app was no longer suitable for children and here’s why.

Kik Apps or “Cards” Bypass Parental Controls

There are no parental controls or pin-like locks to make  “cards” disabled. So your child can access adult images, video and chat with strangers anytime through the “cards”.

Over 400 cards (apps) now available on all devices

As of Jan 2014 there are 40 "Cards" or apps within Kik Messenger on the Android version of Kik, available on the Google Play store.

As of May 2014 there are over 400 “Cards” or apps within Kik Messenger

Some of the new “cards” that parents need to be concerned about are:

  • Image Search: Adult images can be searched for within
  • PhotoBomb: A Snapchat like photo app which allows the user to send photos within Kik messenger that will supposedly self-destruct on the receivers end after an set time.

Note: The Snapchat App is well known as a potential “sexting” app because of this self destruct feature. Some teens are using Snapchat to send racy photos to others assuming that the photos will disappear after viewing. According to some reports photos sent via Snapchat can however be retrieved forensically from the phone the photos were received on.

  • YouTube: Adult content
  • HeyHey! “Meet new people to chat and play games” Scroll through profile pictures of strangers and pornographic images to talk to “new friends” online. The pixilated penis profile picture in the screen capture below was in the first page of profile pictures. Lots of requests for underage teenage girls to hook up with older guys.
  • Chat Now: Find people to Chat Now Same as HeyHey!
  • Find Friends: A way to find your Kik Messenger friends, friends…they must sign into the “Find Friends” app also.
  • AnonyChat: A stream of anonymous chat you can contribute to
  • Kik Chat Wheel: Like Chat Roulette, spin the wheel and chat with a random stranger
  • Seecretly Clean: Like Whisper and Secret online anonymous confessions
Where the apps are on Kik Messenger

Where the apps are on Kik Messenger

Will Kids Want To Use These Cards?

Many children are NOT using these cards yet, they may not have found them. But the developers have already stated that they will be actively promoting the use of these cards to their users, it is the way that Kik will be monitising their free app. It won’t be long before your child will be made fully aware of the some 400 cards/apps available through this messaging app.

These are apps that do not have to go through the stringent verification process that most apps on the iTunes and Google Play do. The “Top Sites” Card is the gateway to all the other apps. Clicking on the apps activates them and saves them to your Favourites list. The “cards” look attractive and fun and some are simply harmless games. None of the “cards” show an age rating for adult content, and all can easily be activated by children without the child understanding what the app actually does. The list of these cards is growing, and unlike being able to look for reviews of these apps on the various app stores to see what they actually do, and how secure they are, there are no reviews that I could find for some of these apps like PhotoBomb or Chat Now or Hey Hey.

Many children won’t use the cards, but as they appear below the messages window they will be hard to ignore. “Cards” are the way that Kik hopes to monitise this free app. Disturbingly there are many many children’s profiles featured on the “Hook Up” chat with stranger style apps. Unless they are fake profiles, it is clear that many children are using the chat with stranger apps within Kik.

How Are Other Users Finding My Child?

If your child follows the constant prompts to allow Kik to scan their address book, the Kik app will then find friends with a Kik account, or… anyone related to that person including adults. When I synced Kik with my address book I received suggestions to “friend” the sons and daughters of my adult friends in my address book, even though the child’s email and phone number was not in my address book. Friend suggestions may come from a “friends” connections and will effectively be a total stranger to your child.

If your child ever publicises their Kik user name on any social media, or someone else does, they will get contacted by strangers. There are many ways for people to find Kik Messenger user names. You can find them shared on other social media apps like Instagram, Facebook and Miumeet, many Kik users include their Kik user name in their social media bio, usually with the #KikMe tag. Some enterprising folks have gone as far as to to list Kik user names on websites aimed at finding people to hook up with on Kik (no link to those!). Do a search for “Kik Me” on any social media and it will bring up users advertising their Kik Messenger profiles.

Can you prevent strangers from contacting your child on Kik?

It is hard to know how scammers and spammers are finding and messaging accounts, some of the messages may come from the apps within Kik. But even without sharing my profile name with anyone and having no contacts other than my other test Kik accounts and having the so called “privacy” setting on, I have been approached by strangers on Kik.

The bottom line is you can’t prevent your child being approached by a stranger, who may have a pornographic profile pic, or may send your child a pornographic video or photo as way of introduction. Most Kik users have been sent messages from a complete stranger. This happens even with the “Notify for New People” feature, where you can switch off being notified of a message waiting for you from a new contact.

Kik Messenger and Instagram

Kik Messenger users are using Instagram to find people to chat with privately on Kik. If your child also uses Instagram make sure they are not advertising their Kik Messenger profile name on Instagram. The picture (below left) shows the search term for Kik Messenger #KikMe on Instagram. There are over  15 million results for #KikMe on Instagram now. Putting this search term in Instagram search will bring up any photos or profiles that have #KikMe as a tag advertising their Kik user name, (warning it also brings up a lot of porn). This is one way users of Kik Messenger find each other online, to then hook up in private message on Kik. The search term #KikMe is also getting more popular on the Facebook search engine.

Pornographic Profile Pictures

Enclosed in Kik Messenger are some adult “Chat with stranger” apps/cards. “Chat Now” (below middle) and HeyHey!” (below right) both had examples of pornographic profile pictures on the first page. Young children also have their profiles advertised on these apps as being available for chatting with anyone. Some of these profiles will be fake, but it is clear that many young children are signing up to “Chat With Strangers” on Kik Messenger, better check to be sure your child isn’t signed up to any like these, there are new ones being added every day just about.

Kik Messenger "Cards" or Apps

Kik Messenger “Cards” or Apps

Parental Controls

There are no parental controls for this messenging app of course, this app is designed for adults. And the usual parental controls on your child’s device won’t work within the Kik Messenger app. So blocking YouTube for example on your child’s iPod, won’t disable the YouTube app within Kik Messenger. Some parents are sharing messaging apps with their children to supervise their interactions. This can be especially helpful for younger users. Kik Messenger doesn’t enable this ability. The moment you log into the same Kik account on another device previous messages and conversations are deleted from the account. Logging out (resetting) of Kik messenger also deletes all previous conversations and messages, which for many parents makes parent supervision quite unreliable.

Privacy Controls?

Your child can create a unique user name like “PrincessSparklePony1″ to avoid being searched for by their real name on Kik. Whilst this seems like a good privacy move, it also means that strangers can hide their real identity also. In settings under notifications the “Notify for New People” feature, where you can switch off being notified of a message waiting for you from a new contact is the only thing you can do to attempt to limit your child’s exposure to strangers. This is one of two safety settings. The other is “Message Preview” which needs to be disabled. But by switching these two features to the off position it only blurs the message and the profile picture of the stranger, it doesn’t hide the new messages. The message still gets put into your message window at the bottom, you have to tap the message to see it.

So unlike other messaging apps where you can actually block approaches from random strangers, you can’t on Kik, it just blurs the messages, and most kids will probably open the messages in case it’s someone they know. It’s pot luck whether the stranger sends them a pornographic image as way of introduction, this is happening more and more from reports.

Kik Messenger Privacy Settings

Kik Messenger Privacy Settings

This new video from Kik shows you how the “Notify for New People” works. Note: The button is turned to the on position by default when you first open an account.

 

Kiks new terms and conditions

Kiks new terms and conditions

Kiks new terms and conditions

Kiks new terms and conditions

Kik have also just changed their terms of service and privacy terms of service. Parents need to find out the new terms because they will be keeping a lot more data on your children to pass on to 3rd parties for advertising and targeting purposes. See screen shot left

A Safe Messaging App For Kids
If you want your child to have access to a free SMS style messaging app, you need to stick to ones that have no other purpose other than messaging, that have privacy settings that actually do work to block strangers from contacting your child. Safer apps like Skype and iChat are still closed environments, and unless you share an account, you have no ability to really supervise what your children are sharing. Note: Ensuring that what ever your child shares on these messaging platforms is being respected and not shared or edited and then shared, is impossible. Therefore I can only recommend Skype and Apples iChat but only with strict supervision. With strict parental controls and privacy settings enabled to prevent contact by strangers. Constant checking of contacts and of the content being transmitted by younger teens. Parents can also share accounts with their teens on these two apps.

Remember how the internet works: You CANNOT supervise or control the recipient of your child’s message, and therefore prevent your child’s content from being shared on, as is, or in an edited perhaps defaced state. Your child is only as safe as their friends are. Education around internet safety is more fail safe in the long run than trying to outwit your child. Boundaries are still very important around apps and the internet to prevent your child being exposed to content they are not old enough to deal with.

Choose safe apps, AND educate yourself and your children about safe internet use.

Summary:

It is so important that parents try out the apps their kids are using rather than just take their child’s word for it as far as safety goes. It is worth noting that iTunes and Google Play very rarely rate apps at 17+ unless there is a very good reason. If your child is using an app rated for adults you must pay attention!

  1. Kik Messenger is advertised as a messaging app for adults 17+
  2. Kik’s settings don’t block approaches by strangers. 
  3. Messages from strangers are not automatically deleted or blocked
  4. Porn Bots are now rampant on Kik, sending unsolicited porn whether the “notification for people” setting is disabled or not.
  5. New Messages from strangers can contain pornographic photos and shared apps
  6. The apps within the Kik Messenger App cannot be disabled by a parent permanently
  7. The apps within Kik Messenger are designed for adults, and some have adult content including pornography
  8. The apps offered for use within Kik Messenger have NOT been put through Google Play or iTunes verification process
  9. You cannot “share” a Kik Messenger Account with your child
  10. There are many safer options for our children to message each other
  11. Teach your children never to accept friend requests from strangers
  12. Teach your children never to send intimate photos online
  13. Find a messaging app that has no hidden apps within it, that has secure privacy settings to protect your child from stranger contact 

Update: May 31st 2014. Reports of Porn Bots (robots, automated accounts) sending unsolicited messages to users even with the “privacy” settings enabled. These new messages are showing up in the feeds and some look like they are from Kik Messenger admin, when they are not! Read this post from AdlandTV and this one from Forbes about the New “privacy” setting and Porn Bots. Remember in regards to your child seeing Adult content “Once Seen Never Unseen!”

How To Deactivate And Delete Kik Messenger:

June 3rd 2014 Several children came up to me after my cyber safety talk today asking me how to delete their Kik Account (Hallelujah!)It’s not just as simple as removing the app from your device. Below is the correct way to delete your profile and the data within it and how to delete it from their servers.

To Delete and Deactivate your Kik Messenger Account.
Make sure you can receive mail at the email address registered to your Kik account.

First: To deactivate your account: Open Kik Messenger
. Tap Settings
. Select Your Account
. Tap Reset Kik Messenger
. Enter the email address that’s registered to your Kik account on Kik’s Deactivation website. https://ws.kik.com/deactivate
. Kik will send you an email with a link to deactivate your account.

 

Click Here To View

About Leonie Smith

Leonie Smith is a much sought after Cyber Safety expert both as an educator, speaker, workshop presenter and private consultant to teachers, parents, children and business. She has been featured on 60Mins, The Project, The Morning Show, Many T.V news bulletins and many print newspapers and magazines in her role as a Cyber Safety spokesperson.

Based in Sydney Australia, Leonie is known as "The Cyber Safety Lady" and is the Author of the online book "Keeping Kids Safe Online" available from this website as an eBook.
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Keeping You And Your Family Safe Online

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  • Rosie Purdy

    Kik needs to be taken off the market completely. Especially with their newest chat add on called Heyhey! Kik makes it incredibly easy for an adult male or pedophile to contact underage girls – some even as young as 13 yrs of age & under for sexual exploitation.

    • http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au Leonie Smith

      Hi Rosie thankyou for your comment. I think its very important for parents to monitor what their kids are using on their mobile devices. There are even worse apps out there that can be easily downloaded. Kik Messenger is designed for adults, yes, if you look at the design, it looks very attractive to children with the graphics, but it states very clearly in their terms of service that the app is for adults only. Kids are only using Kik because either their parents are letting them, or the parents have no idea what the app can do, or don’t know their child is using it. Like every other aspect of parenting, the best parents are ones who have had involvement in their child’s upbringing, and continue to play a part in their offline and online worlds. Education for Teachers, Parents and children about the internet and technology is essential. Unfortunately most kids and teachers are getting that education, but parents are choosing to avoid it. So many schools continue to tell me that the parents are not interested in education around cyber safety. They are year after year avoiding it. Some schools are giving up on their parents. Other schools are trying to find ways of sneaking their cyber safety education into other meetings or making the cyber safety talks compulsory. You can’t block adult content very successfully if you don’t know what is adult content, or how to do it. Many parents need to get off their high horses and accept they need help.

    • http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au/ Leonie Smith

      Thanks for your comment Rosie. Kid is absolutely fine for adults. No need for it to be taken off the market. It is even rated clearly on the iTunes store for adults. Parents are allowing it’s use and taking a huge risk. Most parents I speak to. 1. have never heard of Kik or 2. were entirely unaware of the risks involved in using it. 3. Didn’t know the existence of the “cards” or apps within it. It’s so important that parents take time to really investigate apps their children use, and read up on them.

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  • Catherine Horrocks

    Hi Leonie. My son has kik on his iPod and we had an issue with it yesterday (a kid from another school sending an excerpt from a horror movie which has freaked my son – and presumably some of the other kids – out). This has prompted me to do some research which has made me think about disabling his account of at least setting up some controls on it. I would also like to talk to the school and other parents about it to see if we can all agree on a common approach, eg, getting all the kids onto one of the safer platforms. One of my problems is that I have no idea how to manage the technical aspects of disabling or setting controls on apps. For now I have the iPod but don’t want to take that away permanently.
    Thanks very much.
    Catherine

    • http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au/ Leonie Smith

      Hi Catherine thanks for your comment. As I’ve pointed out above there are no privacy settings or parental controls on Kik messenger. It is rated 17+ and designed for adults not kids. Many kids are using it because parents either don’t know about it, or don’t understand why the rating is 17+. The issue you speak of transferring video or photos, however could happen on any messaging app, such as iMessage, Skype, Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber. As per the post above the only messaging apps I can recommend for primary school kids are iMessage and Skype due to neither of them actively encouraging linking with other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram and both having privacy settings. Kik has other issues associated with it, which parents need to know if they approve its use, the hidden apps, for chatting with strangers etc…There is a video app in Kik which is one way the other child may have found the video he/she shared. There is nothing you can do to prevent your child receiving a video or photo from someone he connected to on a messaging app I’m afraid…all messaging apps allow it, and there are no settings to prevent this. Children need to receive education about sharing photos and video, and parents need to be far more aware of what kids are looking at online. If a child is sharing an adult video, then they must have access to it somehow through YouTube or other. I’m not sure how old your child is, but all kids under 13yrs should have parental controls setup on their mobile devices so you can limit what they download and which apps they can use. I’m about to do a post, prompted by your question on Skype and iMessage settings to help parents with their choice of apps. For some kids, if they can’t be trusted or have friends that can’t be trusted going SMS only might be the way, kids are less likely to send a file via SMS because it costs more….Here’s a post I just wrote up explaining the safer option of using iMessage or Skype with the Safety Settings that need to be set http://thecybersafetylady.com.au/2013/10/safety-settings-for-kids-on-apple-imessage-and-skype/

      • Catherine Horrocks

        Thanks very much for your response, Leonie. My son is 10. He doesn’t have a phone, just an iPod so I guess that means that SMS is not an option? I started a conversation with his teacher yesterday and will be talking to other parents at the school. For now, we have taken the iPod away until we can work out how best to manage this.

        • http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au/ Leonie Smith

          You are right SMS not an option on an iPod. Skype and iMessage good options, with the safety settings I’ve outlined in the new post I did. More emphasis has to be placed on education for both parents and children on transmitting appropriate images and video. Best of luck with your school. I’m interested in seeing the outcome please let us know.

          • Catherine Horrocks

            Will do. One of the teachers already spoke to the children yesterday and apparently the principal is putting an article in the newsletter next week.

          • Catherine Horrocks

            The article went in today and included a link to your other kik article. Very pleased with how responsive the school have been.

  • redtea

    Hi Leonie. I have a problem with Kik : we have an iPad at home. A week ago, I discovered that Kik messenger was in the list of bought apps. I never bought it. My wife neither. In fact, it was my teenage daughter who did it. I’ve discovered that she sent bikini pictures of herself with the iPad (she forgot to erase the files after……..). Whenever she wanted to use the app, she downloaded the thing and then erase it. I don’t know who received these pictures of my 15 years old girl, but I’m pissed. So we tried to apply the 17+ filter, but then I can’t use my whisky log app (and I’m vice-president of a whisky amateur club), and my wife can’t use Tumblr (apparently, there’s also adult content on Tumblr). Is there anyway to block the apps form the Store itself?

    • http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au/ Leonie Smith

      Hi redtea thankyou for your comment. You can set up parental controls on the iPad, so that your daughter cannot download new apps without your password. At 15years old, your daughter is old enough to understand why it is unwise to send personal intimate photo’s of herself over the internet. It will be more affective in the longer term to address the issue around your daughters continued use of the app in this way against your wishes in the longer term rather than just trying to outwit your daughter. If you have given her boundaries around using Kik Messenger on the iPad this way, then you need to follow up the consequences of breaking those agreements. Some kids simply won’t follow advice or directives to stay safe, and this is where it is our job as parents to try as best we can to keep them safe. If your daughter is misusing the iPad then why does she still have access to it?

  • ib

    Hi Leonie,

    Is Kik Messenger is a payed app or kids can get it for free ?

    Is there any way for me, a parent to “read” what my son writes on KIK from another device or only if I go into his cellphone ?

    Thank you.
    IB

    • http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au/ Leonie Smith

      Kik is essentially a Free app with “in app” purchases. You can purchase various add on’s within the app. The only way you can read another persons messages is to read them from within that person’s app whilst the app is logged in. Kik deletes all the history from messages if a user logs out of it. If you have another users log in info and try to log into their account from another device it also deletes the messages. You can only really use Kik Messenger and keep your message history from one device. Parents cannot supervise Kik messenger effectively, all messaging apps are very difficult to supervise. Some parents have shared messaging apps like iMessage. This is very useful for parents of much younger children, say under 10 years old, where the parent wants to be fully aware of what the younger child is saying. You can share many different types of messaging apps for this purpose but Kik is one of the few that doesn’t allow for this. Another reason that Kik is not suitable for younger kids.

      • ib

        Thank you so much. You answered all my questions to the full.
        IB

  • Raiseyourchildproper

    Just saying…you can block people within the app if they send you something inappropriate and this is just your side of the story. It can be appropriate if parents aren’t stupid and they monitor what their child is doing. It’s not hard on kik. Just take the device at unexpected times and look through it. Or establish rules before you give the Device.

    • http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au/ Leonie Smith

      Yes you can block people, but for some younger kids it will be too late if they see something awful sent to them. This isn’t just my side of the story at all. If you do your research you can see how many other people have grave concerns with children being on Kik. In fact even the developers agree that it’s unsuitable for children and have banned them. There are many safer messaging apps that kids are allowed to use, that can also be supervised. It’s just not worth the risk. Thankyou for your comment.

      • okayimagirl

        Well a kid can’t receive bad pics unless they search a person and ask for it or post there kick on a social media

        • http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au Leonie Smith

          Thanks for your comment, there are many ways that kids can be found on Kik Messenger. Kik messenger is simply not as safe or secure as other messaging apps.

    • concernedmom

      Taking the device at unexpected times may help some, but in a lot of cases kids delete immediately after receiving or sending inappropriate materials. Young teens are very curious or check things out because they are bored – my recommendation is to put parental controls on the device to limit your child’s ability to download apps. It is not foolproof but it helps.

      • http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au/ Leonie Smith

        My thoughts exactly concernedmom Nothing is kids proof! We can only do our best and hope any mistake or risk out children take can be reversible and can be learned from thanks for your comment.

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  • Heaven Leigh

    I’m not going to lie. Ives sent videos and pics to someone and he said if I stop he would put them online. How can I make heim not do that and make him not have the pics?

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  • derpderpderp

    I Use kik and I have never had someone message me something dirty and if I did I would just block them ._it depends on the teen really because not all teens would talk to the person who is sending them dirty images

    • http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au/ Leonie Smith

      I hope your luck holds derpderpderpderpderpderp….not sure if you read the entire, article…(don’t blame you if you didn’t TLDR…) but, here’s the thing…you shouldn’t be sent any pictures or messages from anyone if you have the “privacy” setting enabled…but unfortunately it only blurs messages from strangers doesn’t block them at all…not so good for a younger child. You might not be scarred to receive porn, but younger children who are using Kik will be. Not for kids…find one that’s safer.

      • jack johnson

        um u can still block people on it and its 17+ so its not for kids and if parents allow there children on this then they not monitoring there chat or internet use and those kids probly already look at porn as not being monitored so not going to scar them any more than they would be

        • http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au Leonie Smith

          Thanks for your comment Jack, blocking people is not a great way to stay safe on this app. The problem is that someone can send your child an obscene photo before they have had a chance to block. A lot of kids even with the “Don’t notify of new contacts” setting on, will still click the message to see it, to see if it is someone they know, they then get exposed to whatever message is waiting for them text or photo. There is just too much spam and unwanted approaches on this app. When I talk to student the majority of Kik users have had really awful stuff sent to them. They won’t tell their parents about it, but it is happening. Other apps, just don’t have as many problems. Once you set up the privacy settings, if you don’t advertise your user name on social media, it’s much safer.

  • carterson2

    please review this safety app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.wikispeedia.screamingspeedlimits&hl=en Regards, Jim Pruett (901) 213 7824

  • jack johnson

    first 1) it only loads ur address book i am guessing the peoples children u said it added were using same email address and probably shudnt have even been on there anyway.. um second this is also for 17+ as it has been for a while so all these other apps u say about match and kik now apps u are meant to be 17+ anyway if parents dont monitor internet use of there children then they shudnt be parents in the first place anyway.. thank you

    • http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au Leonie Smith

      Thanks Jack, I checked, the children were not using their parents email. Kik worked out that a child with the same surname and location in my address book was related. It’s really creepy. It works in the same way as Facebook does. Facebook finds out where you are located, and sends you suggestions for friends based on your connections and where you live, where you work what groups you belong to. Same type of deal. And yes it creeps me out that I get suggestions for my children’s friends on Facebook. And yes you are right, many parents don’t monitor, and it’s really hard to do on Kik because you can’t share an account. You can share iMessage and Skype.

  • Acloserlook

    Leonie, I must commend you on such an informative thread. I am yet to find anything that compares with this level of detail. After being introduced to Kik at the beginning of this year I began to notice all the “negative posts” regarding the app itself. Rather sceptical of this, I did my own investigation as to how and why Kik was getting such bad press. What I faced was rather frightening. As much as the app does what it says on the tin (this I cannot fault), I can only completely agree that the cards have let the safety aspect spiral out of control. Especially for the users that are younger than the recommended age limit. It is worrying how easy it is to connect these to the kik app, and within seconds you are faced with a publicised user name that can never be revoked. Maybe the kik team should look at putting restrictions on these cards, make them require authentication from an app store, E.g Itunes password?
    The CEOP states that in 2012-13 the use of smart phones in younger teens rocketed to 68%, this meaning the majority are and will be using apps like Kik. In my opinion it should be the developers that need to rework their principles on safety and provide adequate ways of protecting the end user, and that includes adults as well as children. I have read many times that the Kik trust and safety team are always actively working with law enforcemant and are always looking to develop new means to control those that abuse the application. This is always a positive, yet in certain circumstances can be too late. As you said “once seen, never unseen”. I guess until Kik and other app developers alike make safer user environments, then educating children towards their safety online is the only way forward. There is so much more I would love to say regarding the flaws that I found with Kik but I will leave that alone. As said to start with, amazing information and i hope more parents can acknowledge what is being said. Thanks

    • http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au/ Leonie Smith

      Thankyou for your comment Acloserlook, I’ve been involved in online communities for near on 20 years. I have always had a heightened sense of privacy and safety online particularly for children. I believe parents need to understand what social media and apps do, to make educated choices about what their children sign up for. This is becoming more and more difficult with hidden “options” on so many apps.

      Kik Messenger is one of the first to be so successful with a link to unverified untested apps. I suggest they will only be the first of many as these things go. This rings alarm bells for me. We are as educators constantly informing our clients and attendees to only ever download apps from official app stores like iTunes and Google Play where most of the apps have had to go through stringent tests and quality control, (although Google Play is less stringent), then along comes an app that children are drawn to, due to it’s cross platform free fun nature, that has over 400 unverified apps accessible within it. Kik are allowing those apps, it’s their way of monitizing the app.

      About a year ago there were a few of those apps embedded within Kik on the iTunes store, and Apple told Kik they had to delete them to Keep Kik on the iTunes store. So Kik then designed a “gateway” to the apps with the “Top Apps” tab. Apple simply wouldn’t allow unverified apps within the app. I recon it’s only a matter of time that Kik is banned from iTunes due to the gate way. Apple are already cracking down on apps that have prompts within them to play advertising videos and the like to keep playing…it won’t be long before this type of work around is also disallowed, I hope.

      I don’t think the majority of kids are using these “cards” or apps, but as Kik is using these developers to monitise the app, they will start to make them more visible if they can. And for the kids that do use the apps, they are setting themselves up for all sorts of spam and approaches that no reasonable parent would want.

      Most Kik reviews don’t mention the “cards” Im not sure why, I don’t know if it’s ignorance or they are worried that kids will find out about them. But I’m in the camp of educating parents about exactly what an app can do.

      So many parents really think that all apps are safe if they are allowed on iTunes or Google Play store. I really want them to start investigating them. Consumer awareness is vital.

      The last school where I spoke to students, about 80% of the student who used Kik put their hands up to say they had received an approach by a complete stranger through Kik. This is unacceptable for an app that is used by Children. The 17+ iTunes store rating does nothing. I want kids to be able to have fun on apps, share things with their friends away from marketers and disgusting predators.

      The biggest problem I face is that parents don’t want to believe any of the negative stuff they read, they want to keep their kids happy, and want a quiet life. In the meantime kids get hurt. If not their kids, other people’s kids. This is a community problem.

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  • Kristen Vollmar

    To be honest, the only reason we use kik anymore is because it’s the only messaging app like it. Nobody really ever uses the apps, we don’t care about them. We just want to group chat with our friends without having to register our phone numbers or video chat or call. It crashes all the time and we’d rather all delete it

    • http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au/ Leonie Smith

      Skype is a safer alternative, has a much better overall reputation. What about F.B messenger? Not sure of your age, but would you use that?

  • Sherry

    Is there a way to delete pictures that were sent on KIK? Will they still be floating out there somewhere even after “deleted?”

    • http://www.thecybersafetylady.com.au Leonie Smith

      There is no way to delete them if they have been sent. The receiver will have them.