Description: Kik is a smartphone/tablet app for instant messaging. There are no message limits, character limits or fees if you only use the basic features. Most kids use Kik as an alternative to SMS text messaging (SMS is the “regular” texting done on a phone through the cell signal) due to its integration with other multimedia (YouTube, Photo Bucket, etc.) and other social media platforms (e.g., Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.). People who use KiK are referred to as “Kiksters” and there are over 100 million Kik users as of March 1, 2014.
Category: Photo/Video Sharing
APP Store rating: 12+ (“infrequent/intense mature/suggestive themes”). Users are supposed to be at least 13 since the app is not compliant with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requirements of specific features for a website designed for children. Kik’s own policy 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, and due to the expectation that kids aren’t using it, the app does not have parental controls.
Sub-apps are a Problem – there are numerous “sub-apps” within Kik that should give parents concern, including a web browser, YouTube, image search, flirting apps, and even one called OinkText, which pairs users up with strangers, similar to Omegle. Conventional web filters you might download onto a mobile device don’t have any control over these capabilities within Kik. The greatest risk to your child’s safety and privacy is the ability to invite people via social networks. With the click of a button, a child can reach out to the public communities on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and others with the message “Kik me”. This begins a new instant message conversation between the sender and the recipient, whoever they may be, making it a perfect place for individuals with bad intent to troll for unsuspecting victims. Recently, Kik made it so pictures need to be “tapped” in order to be seen, instead of simply showing up on the screen.
Ads Everywhere – Kik specializes in “promoted chats” – basically, conversations between brands and users, and also thrives on in-app purchases.
Monitoring is Limited – for both Apple and Android devices, monitoring is VERY limited. Assuming you know their Apple ID and Kik activity is included in the iCloud back-up settings, TeenSafe (paid service – 1-week trial and $14.95/month after that) can show you sent and received texts. OpenDNS can block the web search feature within Kik, but the YouTube and Image search “add-on’s” within Kik still allows some searching for inappropriate content. OpenDNS cannot prevent your child from advertising his/her Kik username via social media, if he/she has an account with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. In the end, because Kik does not intend for kids under 13 to be using it, and there are really no parental controls.
They are Out of Town – a significant law-enforcement issue with Kik is that it’s a Canada-based company, making it difficult and slow for US-based authorities to pursue inappropriate activity. Finally, there are no records for parents to review and chats are easily deleted.
Predator Activity – the app has a reputation of having a significant number of predators prowling the app. Based on our own conversations with law enforcement, predatory activity is still an issue. A recent story of a West Michigan teen lured to Iowa through the app shows how parents really need to be very involved in how their kids are using technology.
As a general rule, if an app cannot be easily monitored, parents may want to consider whether it’s appropriate for middle school students. Additionally, since it is classified as social media, we believe all uers should be at least 13. Parents should take extreme caution when deciding if their young kids should use this app based on the risks noted.