Kik describes itself as, ‘the fastest, simplest, most personal smartphone messenger out there.’ It is an app that can be downloaded onto a smart phone, an iPod, or iPad and users can text others for free. This is one of its allures! At the time of writing 19 million had joined Kik Messenger. It is fun, effective, cheap so what are the dangers?
Samantha Murphy, in an article on mashable.com, quotes a study that teenagers are now sending and receiving an average of 60 texts a day. This is up from 50 in 2009. The increase is being led by older teens ages 14-17, who went from a median of 60 texts a day to a whopping 100.
Girls are still the most active texters, sending and receiving a median of 100 texts a day compared to boys sending 50. However, boys are texting more than they were just two years ago — in 2009, they sent about 30 each day.’
So what are the dangers? The fact that it is available on ipods makes it alluring and accessible to tweens. It is a private messenging service so there is a danger that anyone can communicate with your tween or teen if they know their Kik username without others knowing. There seems to be little in the way of security and privacy settings on Kik. Once you sign up to Kik, it seems to know who you might know and starts to send out invites and messages to others that you have joined suggesting that they add you. You can delete people but not block at this stage. Most teens (and sadly many tweens) who have an Instagram account include their Kik username in the profile. As most teens do not set their Instagram account to private anyone can start to ‘Kik message’ them.
A particularly unpleasant story came to my knowledge through a reader of this site. In this case two girls had an Instagram account on which they had posted photos of themselves. They also had Kik accounts. A paedophile targeted them and suggested that they send naked photos of themselves. Unfortunately one of the girls did just that. They were 11 year olds in Grade 5. The incident became a police matter however, as this poster commented, it is a stark reminder of how vulnerable our children are.
It is a reminder of the fact that we as parents and educators must be active participants in our child’s social media world. We must set boundaries and ensure that they are kept to and constantly be alert and informed about the new. Ignorance is not bliss!