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. Updated and edited May 2014 Update:
Kik connects to more apps and now includes a search browser: This means your children using this app can search for more apps to use with Kik Messenger. 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.
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.
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 or an email account 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.
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
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
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.
Update: May 2014 Now Over 400 “Cards” There are new cards being added every day.
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. (see update below about the Porn Bots now using Kik Messenger to send unsolicited porn to users with or without the “Notify for New People” setting unticked.
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.
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.
Because Kik Messenger isn’t dependent on a phone number or email address and doesn’t require any real identification, it means 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. And it seems that even with psudo names strangers are still contacting kids on this app. 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.
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. Kik users are also sent a reminder email (see pic left) from Kik alerting you that you have “ignored messages” waiting for you. They are called “missed messages” in the email.
April 2014 Update:
Kik have added their own search engine to find apps to add to Kik Accounts. This way you can add new games and “chat with stranger apps” to the list they already have. When you put a search term in the Search engine it looks for compatible apps to connect your Kik account to. Some of the new apps are incredibly dangerous for kids. Like – 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
No you can’t disable them permanently your child can add them back and use them without your consent.
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.
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.
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!
- Kik Messenger is advertised as a messaging app for adults 17+
- Kik’s settings don’t block approaches by strangers.
- Messages from strangers are not automatically deleted or blocked
- Porn Bots are now rampant on Kik, sending unsolicited porn whether the “notification for people” setting is disabled or not.
- New Messages from strangers can contain pornographic photos and shared apps
- The apps within the Kik Messenger App cannot be disabled by a parent permanently
- The apps within Kik Messenger are designed for adults, and some have adult content including pornography
- The apps offered for use within Kik Messenger have NOT been put through Google Play or iTunes verification process
- You cannot “share” a Kik Messenger Account with your child
- There are many safer options for our children to message each other
- Teach your children never to accept friend requests from strangers
- Teach your children never to send intimate photos online
- Find a messaging app that has no hidden apps within it, that has secure privacy settings to protect your child from stranger contact
The YouTube video below was made in August 2013. Some of the apps and settings have changed. There are now over 400 apps within Kik Messenger and the “privacy settings” are now less secure.
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.