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.
Many of you will have just flicked away from my blog after reading that…How 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 outcast…and 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 considered…YOU 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 strangers…always asking permission to use each new app that shows up in Kik Messenger…that’s right Kik now has over 400 apps enclosed within it.
But…if 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 online…who 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.
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.