Why? Apps That Scan Our Address Books
As part of the previous article I wrote this week about some of the more risky mobile photo and video apps that kids are using, and instant messaging Phone App Kik, I discovered something shocking, there is another part of this story, if it weren’t bad enough already, see below for more.
During my research for the story, when I was looking at the Kik app and setting it up on my phone, I was horrified to find that when I allowed Kik to scan my address book on my iPhone for other users of Kik, it turned up two Kik account holders who are the young daughters (aged around 12 or 13 years) of two of my acquaintances, who are listed in my phone’s address book. One parent was someone I knew through my child’s previous primary school, the other, someone I’d met in business. Neither child is listed in my phone book by name or otherwise. So I can only assume that one of the emails I have for their parent is being used by their children to log into their Kik account. As this app is only for users aged 17+ I was also shocked that the children were using this app!
Sharing Email Accounts Is NOT Safe For Children!
Some parents think it’s safer for their child NOT to have their own email account, but instead allow them to use the parents email address, and then the parent can moderate their emails. And whilst that seems like a good idea…if the parent is then sharing that email account with other adults or even other parents, or god forbid using it for their business…as you can see, it can be a disaster! The children are using their parents emails, to create accounts.
This is so tangled…but what Kik essentially gave me, is a way to directly message and interact with these two girls without their parents involvement at all, if they accepted my friend request. These two parents may have given these email addresses out to hundreds of people who have them in their phones address books, I hope they know them all and their contacts are trustworthy.
It’s Not Just Kik
Just about every social and messaging App you download to your mobile device asks if it can scan your address book to find your “friends” who also have an account. Facebook does this, Google does this, Twitter, and many others. I most often don’t allow apps to do this…why? I find it an unacceptable betrayal of trust to my friends. My contacts in my phones address book haven’t given me permission to send their private details to Facebook, or any other app for that matter. I was extremely hesitant to allow Kik to do this, but Kik scanned rather than uploaded my contacts, having said that, I don’t know Kik well enough to trust they won’t mine my contacts for advertising or business. Throwing caution to the wind this one time has, however pointed out a very dangerous situation. Firstly don’t allow apps to scan your address book, and secondly don’t let your kids log into anything with an email address you are handing over to other adults! Address book matching can be turned off in Kik so that you can only be found by your unique user name, clearly the two children that I turned up didn’t have it turned off.
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Watch the “Be Found Via Your Phone Number Or Email Setting”
Some apps like Twitter and Facebook also have a setting where you can be found on their network via your email and phone number…again if you’re sharing your email address or phone number with your child…this definitely needs to be disabled! My email and mobile number is only used by me.
Email Moderation Solution:
The solution, if you want to moderate your child’s email, is to set up one for them separate from yours, and have it also set up in your own email program, Outlook or Mac mail etc. Don’t, under any circumstances, share an email address with your child and then use it with other adults! Your child may be using the email to set up other accounts and for apps.
Why Kik Is Dangerous For Kids Who Mix It With Social Media
Kik’s age limit is set by Apple at 17+ for a good reason. Kik is not only a dangerous app for kids because of this address book scanning feature, but also because Kik encourages you to share your Kik account on your other social networks, which are NOT private. Facebook is certainly not private, even with the best privacy settings it’s still not private. Kik “seems” to be more private than Facebook messenger because now anyone can message you though Facebook messaging, weather you are connected to them or NOT, but the sharing on social media option in Kik, means that for children who do share their Kik account with their social media accounts..it’s likely they will be approached through Kik by a stranger. You can turn off new friend requests in Kik in the settings, which effectively means you can’t be contacted by new users to connect up on Kik, but again you would have to moderate the use of Kik with your child to ensure they didn’t do the wrong thing and fiddle with the settings. Bottom line is, that Kik is developed for 17+ and your child should not be allowed on it.
Pedophiles Are Using Kik
I just heard a horrifying story about a girl of 9 years old who sent nude photos to a pedophile through her Kik account. It’s quite possible that she shared her Kik account details onto her Facebook wall, and it was seen either by a direct friend, or a friend of a friend…or a complete stranger if her privacy settings are not set up. This is why 9 year olds are banned from Facebook.
What To Use?
Kik is attractive to kids because it also includes games or “cards” as they are called in the app, and kids love texting and messaging. Parents know that texting can run up the bills, so parents like the idea of their kids messaging through free apps and free wifi. I recommend Skype because it is one of the simplest messaging apps to use, it’s not social, and can be set so that you can’t have random strangers contacting your child. The privacy settings are also very easy to set up, to prevent you being found on Skype, and being approached by a complete stranger.
NOTE: Skype MUST only be used with parental supervision. Be sure your child hasn’t turned the privacy settings off…you can’t lock the settings to on, unless you have a parental controlled account set up for the computer. You have to set the privacy settings up through your child’s account and through a PC browser. Check out your child’s contacts list in Skype regularly, be sure you know who their contacts are. Also teach your child about webcam safety and appropriate behaviour on Webcams…the video chat option on Skype can be recorded by the viewer with recording software if they have it. Teach kids also about webcaming in the home, you don’t want them talking on Skype via video when a half dressed family member walks past behind them on the way to the shower!
The Mac Messages app is also a good messaging tool but only works on Macs and iOS devices.
Again: Set up parental controls on your child’s mobile device. Don’t share credit card numbers with your kids or your email address. Check out the app before you allow, and stick to the age limits on apps and social networks.
This is what Kik say on their iTunes store about Kik. It’s incorrect to say it’s private if you share your username to your social media account…which isn’t private.
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The Cyber Safety Lady: Parents Watch Out For The Zombie Video Games! tinyurl.com/berpn25
— Leonie Smith (@_LeonieGSmith) April 12, 2013