Latest Edit: May 16th 2015
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.
Scroll down to the Summary if you don’t need all the detail!
What Is Kik?
Kik messenger is an incredibly popular free mobile messaging app with over 200 million users.
What Are The Dangers?
- Insecure “Privacy” Settings that let strangers through
- Spammers and porn bots sending adult content
- Large public groups for chatting with strangers
- Unverified, unrated adult hook up apps hosted within Kik
- Constant approaches by strangers that can’t be avoided
- Inability to ever log out of the device without resetting it
- Hard for parents to supervise
Why Is Kik Messenger So Popular With Younger Kids?
Kim Messenger is a convenient, simple & free SMS substitute. It is one of the only cross platform (operates on all mobile devices) 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. Note: Skype and iMessage also have this ability, but have better security to protect against strangers.
Kik Messenger Is No Longer Rated 13+
Previously Kik Messenger was rated 13+ on the app stores. In November 2012, Kik introduced apps within the messenger app (now called webpages), the age requirement was then increased to 17+.
The webpages (apps) are located via the globe icon lower right of the main message screen, and by clicking the + left of the message input window.
Kik “webpages” Have Changed The Safety Level For Kids Substantially!
- Kik Apps or “webpages” bypass Parental Controls around adult content
- There are no parental controls or pin-like locks to disable the apps “webpages”
- Many of the apps are ripoffs of other games like “Flappy Bird” so kids will be attracted to them
- Mixed in with the “child-like” games are apps that are decidedly adult, “chat with stranger” apps and “hot girls/boys” type apps.
- None of the apps carry an age rating so kids and parents can’t tell which are adult
- Some of the apps have pornographic content
- Signing into an app, puts your child’s name on a data base where they can then be contacted directly by strangers
Over 100 “Webpages” are now available on all devices
Some of the webpages that parents need to be concerned about are:
- YouTube like video apps: Adult content
- HeyHey! “Meet new people to chat and play games” Lots of requests for underage teenage girls to hook up with older guys.
- RolePlay: Find people to role play situations
- Truth Or Dare: A dangerous game with other strangers online
- Match & Chat: A Tinder Like app to find your match online
- Chat Wheel: Like Chat Roulette, spin the wheel and chat with a random stranger
- Seecretly Clean: Like Whisper and Secret online anonymous confessions
- Nearby Chat: Using geolocation to find strangers that are nearby
There are so many chat with stranger apps I can’t list them all.
Will Kids Want To Use These apps (Webpages)?
Many children are NOT using these webpages… yet. 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 is monetising their free app. It won’t be long before your child will be made fully aware of the some 100 webpages/apps available through this messaging app.
These apps do not have to go through the stringent verification process that all apps on the iTunes and Google Play do, apps are screened on these legitimate stores for spam, scams virus’s and pornography. The apps within Kik haven’t passed any of those tests. None of the webpages/apps 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 any of these apps.
Many children won’t find these apps/webpages, but as they appear below the messages window where “emoticons” usually are, they will be hard to ignore, kids are always looking for emoticons to add to their messages so they will figure out where they are pretty soon.
There are now group chats in Kik so you can be invited to join a group where any of the members can chat, a bit like a forum or chat room. Its quite possible that a child will join a group or be invited to one that will involve large amounts of Kik users that they don’t know offline. Anyone can create their own group, so a child at school can create a chat group where they all talk in a group privately without any parental supervision.
How Are Other Users Finding My Child?
Address Book Sync
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.
Publicising Kik User Names On Social Media
If your child ever publicises their Kik user name on any social media, or someone else does, they may get contacted by strangers if privacy settings are not absolutely secure.
There are many other 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 “KikMe” 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 supposedly switch off being notified of a message waiting for you from a new 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!”
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 26 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 very graphic porn, don’t let anyone tell you that Instagram doesn’t have 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 other YouTube like video apps within Kik Messenger.
Some parents are sharing messaging accounts like Apple’s Messenger and Skype 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. Most users don’t log out of Kik Messenger so they can save messages, unless they want to delete all history. This means the messaging app is always on! Turning the mobile device off is the only way to disable it.
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 also 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 only 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.
Is There 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 Apple’s Messages are still closed environments, but for younger children you can share an account to see messages going back and forth in real time. Note: Ensuring that what ever your child shares on these messaging platforms is being respected and not shared or edited and then shared further, is impossible.
I can only recommend Skype and Apple’s Messenger with strict supervision. Both apps need strict privacy settings enabled and secure user names to prevent contact by strangers. Constant checking of your child’s contacts and of the content being transmitted by younger teens is important for safety.
Skype is the closest to Kik with regard to it’s abilities without the extra dangers. It has group chat, it’s cross platform, you don’t need a phone number, you can make up a pretend user name, you can send video and pictures and unlike a social network it is more private. The upside is that parents can sit in on chats for younger children to supervise which you cannot do on Kik. You can actually block strangers and your child won’t see their messages if you set up the very simple privacy settings, (Go to preferences/Privacy set all to contacts only) and if they only share their profile name with real friends. Warning: Skype now has a prompt when you open a new account to share your profile name with Facebook, obviously that makes Skype far less secure for younger children and young teens, so it is inadvisable.
Apple Messages has all of the same facilities as Skype but obviously only works on iDevices.
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.
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.
- Porn Bots are now rampant on Kik, sending unsolicited porn whether the “privacy” setting is enabled or not.
- The apps (Webpages) 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 majority of the apps in Kik are “Chat with strangers” apps.
- 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 to supervise them
- Kik now has chat groups that have large amount of members. Public groups can be searched for, or set up by any user.
- There are many safer options for our children to message each other. Skype and Apple’s Messages.
- Teach your children never to accept friend requests from strangers
- Teach your children never to send intimate photos online
The YouTube video below was made in July 2014, the webpages are now located in a different area. The globe icon lower right of the screen leads to them, as does the + sign left of the message input window. There are now over 100 apps (webpages) within Kik Messenger and the “privacy settings” are now less secure.
How To Deactivate And Delete Kik Messenger:
Several children ask me during my talks how to properly 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.
Leonie Presents Cyber Safety Talks for schools, business, and community groups.