Kik Messenger And Peer Group Pressure

A new app on Kik Messenger Hey Hey Chat to New Friends...Strangers
A new app on Kik Messenger Hey Hey Chat to New FriendsStrangers

This post is going to rub some people up the wrong way. I’m going to say something that many parents haven’t considered, or something that they don’t want to consider when making choices about the internet for their child….This post is about caring about other families kids online.

If you think this post is too long… at least watch the video at the end of it, you might be shocked what you find out about Kik.

At last nights cyber safety talk, there was of course some discussion about Kik Messenger (rated 17+). If you are not up to date with the changes to Kik Messenger lately, and why it is now considered by many police, cyber safety experts and teachers to be one of the most dangerous apps for kids, read here first.

(Welcome Back) I know, that even after last nights talk there will still be parents, that even after hearing from myself, the police and a school principal about  how Kik Messenger can be dangerous for their child, will still decide to allow their child to use this app. They may feel that their child is mature enough (even at 12 years old or younger) and is educated enough NOT to use the adult hook-up, speak-to-stranger apps, and the Snapchat style photo messenger app, to name a few, that are now enclosed within the Kik messenger app. They believe that their child is going to be safe with the parents supervision and guidance.

I believe that the parents that allow their underage kids to continue to use this app against all informed advice and against the Kik terms of service, setting the age of users at age 17+, are failing their community.

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Many of you will have just flicked away from my blog after reading thatHow dare she! She is telling us how to parent!

For those of you still reading, bear with me, you are going to read something you almost never see written anywhere.

Peer Group Pressure

Peer-group pressure effects not just our kids, but it is also evident in adults, I’ll explain.

No parent wants their kid to be “the loner”to be left out. No parent wants to have a fight with their child over an app that “everyone else can use” and let’s face it, setting rules and boundaries around apps is hard enough, without feeling that your child will be ostracised if they are not allowed it.

I hear that some parents are also under peer group pressure from other parents who feel that with good supervision Kik Messenger IS safe.  Some parents feel that the drama around this app and others is just scare mongering. We can also include the parents that haven’t got a clue what their kid is doing online or on their mobile device in the group of parents who are allowing their children to use Kik Messenger. So with an estimate of around 75% of kids in primary school and highschool apparently using Kik Messenger (suggested last night by the Police Youth Liaison Officer) , if your child is the only child without access to this app,  some parents are worried that their child might become a social outcastand no parent wants that. Some parents might also think “What’s the point of signing your child up to iMessage, Skype or even Viber (which while not that safe is still much safer than Kik) if none of the other kids are using these safer apps”.

Cyber Safety Needs To Be A Community Responsibility!

Here’s the thing that I’m guessing most of these aforementioned parents haven’t consideredYOU might be THE most internet savvy parents who have, through great parenting, developed an amazing, open and honest relationship with your child. You are sure your child knows the rules of the game, no inappropriate photos, no friending strangersalways asking permission to use each new app that shows up in Kik Messengerthat’s right Kik now has over 400 apps enclosed within it.

Butif one child in your child’s social media network gets badly hurt by using Kik, or views the readily available porn through Kik’s apps, or is contacted by a predator, or gets badly bullied on Kik, because the child didn’t listen to advice, or they don’t have cyber savvy parents who supervise and have educated them as you have done with yours, I believe the community of parents who allow Kik to be used by their underage children have failed these vulnerable children. The child who has been hurt on Kik Messenger hasn’t only been let down by their own parents’ lack of awareness and vigilance, but this child has been let down by the entire community of parents who opt to continue to allow their underage kids to use the adult’s only app Kik Messenger. Common-sense NOT peer group pressure or lack of awareness needs to prevail here. Especially when there are much safer options.

Cyber Safety is not just about our own kids, it’s about everybody’s kids, isn’t it?

At some schools where I’ve spoken, the parents have decided to try something. They have decided to form a parent committee to try and get a groundswell of agreement to encourage all the parents to test out a no underage kids on Kik or Facebook rule. They have suggested that they would like the parent body to search for alternative social media and messaging apps for their kids to communicate socially online. To try Skype or iMessage, or at least a messaging app without hidden adult apps enclosed within, or a social network especially created for children. A messaging app that doesn’t prompt you constantly to share your private profile name on other potentially unsafe social media apps, and one with good reliable simple privacy settings, that actually do block. These parents aspire to do this, to help ALL the children at their school stay safe online. To help protect the kids who are especially vulnerable online, children, who like to push boundaries, kids who are under 6 years old who are influenced by older primary school kids talking about Kik, and who perhaps have parents who don’t know what is safe to use onlinewho arn’t in the Cyber Safety loop. To give an alternative safer solution for kids who want to be part of the amazing online social world.

A Question for the community: Do we let these more vulnerable kids suffer as victims, because we feel our “protected” kids have a right to use a popular trendy new app?

Kik Messenger Is One Of THE Most Dangerous Apps For Kids:

I’ll say it again, Kik messenger is no longer JUST a messaging app, parents, please get yourself an account, and search for the apps or “cards” within it, (see below video to find out where). They are hidden in the left hand side of the app chat window. Try the “cards” out, and judge for yourself. Think about your child’s friends, kids that don’t have the skills or maturity or the parental supervision that your family perhaps does.

Privacy Settings?

The privacy settings in Kik Messenger do not stop your child from being approached by someone they do not know. Even if they don’t advertise their account name on other social media, if they follow the prompts and sync their account with their address book, which they all do,  the app will scan their address book and not only suggest other Kik users they know but will also suggest anyone else related to that person to them, including adults, friends of friends ect. This is how many kids are getting connected with adults on Kik. Anyone who does find you on Kik can send you messages and photos without your approval, and many kids are getting sent pornographic images from adults without even approving friendship. The “Ignore New Contacts” privacy setting does not block approaches, it only puts them in a separate message tab, and Kik Messenger then sends you a reminder about those “ignored messages” with the full content of the message in an email every now and then.

No Child Is Really Safe On Kik

Remember how social media works, any online post can potentially be misinterpreted, changed, or made fun of, and can then be shared on to others outside your child’s original network. Screen shots or recording, copy and paste can all be used to share, even if a share button isn’t present. You can’t “follow” your child on Kik. You can’t supervise their interactions. Logging into your child’s Kik account will delete all the messages.

Parents, no matter how vigilant, cannot control what other people’s children do with their own children’s posts. Make sure your children are mature or old enough to handle the emotional fall out if one of their posts end up in the wrong hands. Surely waiting until the kids are old enough before being exposed to the adult online world is not unrealistic?

What about this idea of community support to find other ways for kids to socialise online safely? Do you think it could work? Or is it simply too bad if someone else’s kid gets hurt due to lack of supervision or awareness? Some school parents have already started to create a Pledge around safe apps in in their child’s school, has your school done this?

 

The video below demonstrates the apps or “cards” within Kik Messenger, where to find them and what some of them do.

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  • Sara Grayndler de Horne

    I so totally agree! I was at that talk last night and really valued your wisdom, insight, experience and advice on how we can actually connect with our kids with technology. It is a changing era and we need to embrace some things as their future working lives will be dependant on some of these tools, but we also need to keep them safe as they learn these things.

    This morning I asked my 11 year old if he communicates with any strangers on Instagram. He said he has followers so I asked him to check and several of them were unknown to him! He had no idea and deleted them straight away, saying it was a bit creepy. If I hadn’t have heard your talk last night I might never have known. Lots of things need to change in our family, but I now have more control and know where to start.

    THANK YOU!!!!!

    • Leonie Smith

      Thankyou Sara, firstly for taking the time to turn up to the talk. It takes a brave parent to turn up to a cyber safety talk. Some parents just can’t think of any reason why they should go. I’m hoping that word of mouth will help encourage more parents to attend my future ones. I certainly don’t want the talks to discourage anyone from getting on line, but hope that I can help parents by giving them some tools to be able to be informed and educated so that know what they are “looking” at when they are supervising over their kids shoulders. I’m thrilled that my talk helped you and your family, it makes it all worthwhile 🙂

  • Martine Oglethorpe

    Whilst we know that Kik certainly exposes kids to many potential dangers, and it is important to point out to parents what is out there, I believe we need more focus on educating kids (and parents) on how they can handle all sites rather than have them believe that blocking or banning one will keep our kids safe. I spoke to kids today and already they have moved on from Kik. Their reason was that it is easier now to go back to Facebook or other messaging sites as Kik was looking too clumsy! They said they did not use Facebook for status updates but only private and group messaging as it was just ‘easier’. Most of the year 9 kids I spoke to weren’t even aware these other apps (snapcaht etc) were now enclosed within Kik. They also responded by saying that if they wanted to go to those apps or others they would just go straight to them rather than within Kik. So I think we need to be very aware that kids are moving around all this so quickly and so we need to teach them how to use all sites rather than just worrying about the latest fad one. That is not to say that some sites dont have better safety settings than others and can be encouraged more, we just dont want parents to have a false sense of security because they have banned the ‘bad’ ones.
    I agree with your idea of ‘looking out for other kids who do not have the same boundaries, guidance and support. I have looked after families who are working 2 jobs to give their kids a meal and keep them off the streets, so to investigate every app their kid is on is not very realistic. Yes this is when the schools and the peers need to help out. I believe no child is safe on any app or site if they are not taught the skills to deal with them.

    • Leonie Smith

      Thanks for your comment Martine. Just to set it straight, Snapchat isn’t within Kik, The apps within Kik are mostly new unreviewed apps that are not available anywhere else.

      Supervision and education is so important as you have said. But it is perfectly ok for a parent to “ban” anything. Otherwise you’d be allowing your child to use RedTube, or drink beer. Each parent has to decide what they allow and what they disallow for their child. Depending on the child and the style of parenting a child will either push boundaries or comply. Sometimes banning something whilst perhaps not completely preventing use, can certainly set up a safety zone for the child where they can say to a peer that is pushing them, I’m not allowed to do that. I certainly saw that with my older 2 kids who are now 28 and 30 when it came to drugs and alcohol.

      Each parent has their own style, I guess there is no really infallible text book for parenting it can be hit and miss sometimes. As long as love and caring and support is involved hopefully we don’t make too many mistakes.

  • Martine Oglethorpe

    (sorry, I see now it is snap chat-style not snap chat!) I think absolutely the responsibility for this must ultimately lie with the parents. I think they should be able to ban sites they don’t think their children are mature enough to deal with. I too have done this successfully. But I guess my concern is not wanting to give them a false sense of security because they have banned a site. I know many parents who have said to me “no way is my 12 year old allowed on Facebook. At least I know that for now they are safe.” These same kids are following me on Instagram and their parents didnt even know it existed. Likewise I have read some horrific timelines on qooh.me. Absolutely scary stuff. Yet their parents still think they are doing all the right things because they are no longer allowed on Kik. Yes it would be great if parents could keep up with every site, and yes, maybe that is our responsibility to keep informing them like this as each site pops up. But I think ultimately it requires far more than that. Certainly love, support and caring but a whole lot of guidance and communication too.

    • Leonie Smith

      Thanks again Martine. In my talks I never give the impression that banning one site is the end of it. I do make it very clear about alternatives and great sites for kids. I give parents tools to find out about the apps and what they need to know. So many parents are finding it hard to catch up on technology, we might have spend hundreds of dollars and years of our life learning about nutrition, education and the mental well being of our children, but so many parents think technology is too hard or are feeling overwhelmed by it. We do need to find the time to research what our kids are using. You don’t need to know about every app out there…just every app your child is using. And right now especially the few that are quite unsafe. Thanks for contributing to this discussion, I value your input!

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