Kik is an app that is very popular with tweens. It's also not intended to be used by tweens and can be dangerous for kids with sexual predators using Kik to request naked photos or inquire about a tween user's sexual experience. Here's what parents need to know about Kik, the hugely popular app that has 90 million users.
* Kik is an instant messaging app that is similar to texting but users have multiple options of talking with individuals, with groups and within a social networking environment. Users can also use Kik to send photos and files and send greeting cards. It combines texting with a social network.
* Users are supposed to be age 13 or older. This is because it is not compliant with COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) requirements of specific features for a website designed for children, meaning those 12 and under. Kik itself states, "Children under the age of 13 are prohibited from having a Kik account by the Kik Terms of Service." The site has no age verification.
* Because of the above, Kik does not have parental controls.
* There are reports of lots of graphic images, very sexualized discussions and predator-like behavior taking place on Kik. Education.com included Kik on it's list of The 8 Worst Apps for Your Kids earlier this year, saying it has "more to do with young teens flirting and sexting than just keeping in touch with friends."
* Kik and Instagram can be a dangerous combo, which tweens and teens often do not realize. many kids share their Kik username on other public social networks such as Instagram, which many internet trolls, perverts and nasty folks see as an invitation. High Tech Dad wrote a blog about what happened when someone on Instagram asked his daughter's friend for her Kik username. The friend provided it and, via Kik, this unknown individual requested nude photos of the girl.
"Just pause and think about that for a minute. From innocently posting photos to being solicited by a pedophile," High Tech Dad wrote. Send a chill down anyone else's spine?
* There are no records for parents to review and chats are easily deleted.
* Kik is all about being constantly connected, stating on its website that a user's smartphone is "always on, always connected, and always with you. We see it as an implant. It just hasn’t been implanted yet." That's worth keeping in mind when setting phone use limits for your tween/teen.
* Kik is rated 17+ by both the App Store and Common Sense Media. The App Store gives the rating due to "Frequent/Intense Mature/Suggestive Themes." Common Sense Media found it is best for older teens "who will not give out personal information to Kik users they don't know or indiscriminately pay for premium features on other Kik-enabled apps. Kik definitely adds a kick to "old-fashioned texting," but teens need some guidance on safety and privacy if they're going to use it."
* What if your kid is on Kik and you want them off? Parents of kids who are under age 13 who have a Kik account must submit a deactivation request to Kik via emailing with the subject line 'Parent Inquiry'. Kik then sends the parent a deactivation request form, which can be returned to Kik for processing.
Teens between 13 and 18 years old need to have permission from their parent or legal guardian before they create a Kik account and start using Kik Messenger.
UPDATE: Find more alarming information about Kik that parents should know as of February 2016 here.
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