What parents need to know about the Kik app
Kik, an instant messaging smartphone app, is all the rage these days with teens and pre-teens alike.
The app allows users to send and receive free, unlimited messages – including text messages, photos, videos, sketches, emoticons and more – with anyone who has a Kik account. One major benefit is that it can be used while on Wi-Fi, so users can avoid expensive data plans and texting limits. In order to connect, users invite friends from contacts, social networks or by searching usernames. Due to recent events, however, Kik has come under close scrutiny.
Lately, Kik has been linked to a growing number of child sexual abuse cases. Sexual predators reportedly use the app to lure their victims with some frequency. Although users remain anonymous on Kik, children often share too much personal information, including their real name, age and home address.
“The Child Advocacy Center’s concern is that Kik and apps like it are anonymous, and pedophiles are finding and communicating with our children through these anonymous apps,” said Sharon De Boer, director of the Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford County, Tennessee, in a release.
“I would recommend that parents periodically check their child’s media on their phones and computers,” says Jody Poultney, an Advocate Medical Group licensed clinical social worker at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Far too often I have kids seeing me because there is a problem with the way that social media is being used. Talk to your kids about the dangers of on-line predators.”
Kik does provide “Kik’s Guide for Parents” on their website to inform and answer questions.
Poultney offers some general internet safety tips for kids and teens:
- Do not share personal information. Do not give out addresses, phone numbers, your last name or where you attend school.
- Do not share passwords.
- Use a screen name that does not identify you in any way.
- No pictures should be posted without a parent’s permission.
- Do not agree to meet online friends without a parent’s permission. A parent should be present and meetings should be in public.
- If you ever feel uncomfortable you should tell a parent immediately.
- Anything illegal should be reported to the police so that they can address it and possibly prevent it from happening to another child to teenager.
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