A parent’s guide to social media: Part 6 – Kik Messenger
By Allison Tait | August 21, 2014
Social media - Kik messenger

It’s a brave new world out there in cyberspace. A place full of Kiks and Tweets and anonymous questions. It’s also a place full of children – your children – and unfortunately, many parents don’t seem to be aware of its presence, let alone its pitfalls.

We're getting the facts on the online text messaging app, Kik Messenger.

Kik Messenger (kik.com)

 

 

A parent's guide to Kik Messenger

 

 

What is it?

A free texting app available for iPhones, Android, Windows and Blackberry phones, Kik can also be used on an iPod Touch or iPad.

How does it work?

Kids download the app, follow simple steps to set it up and they’re ready to message. It does not require a phone number, like many of the cross-platform SMS-style messaging apps.

Users must know the username of another person to start a chat with them, and users can block (through account settings) people they don’t know or who are sending messages they don’t like. As well, Kik offers an ‘Ignore New People’ feature under notifications, allowing users to review new follower requests. Unfortunately, the privacy settings in Kik do not stop your child from being approached by someone they don’t know.

Why kids like it

“I like that you can have group texts and talk to so many people at the same time,” says Louis May, 12, from Sydney. “We talk about stuff – what happened at school, homework, holidays, weekends and all that. I’ve had no problems. You can leave conversations you don’t like and strangers have never tried to contact me on Kik.”

What you need to know

Age requirements: Kik Messenger is rated 17+ in the app store – it was 13+, but was upgraded when it introduced ‘cards’, or apps within the app, including one that is similar to Snapchat.

The biggest problems with Kik occur when it is combined with another social media account.

“I think that Kik is the most dangerous app in the world of its type,” says Susan Maclean from Cyber Safety Solutions. “There are no security settings and most kids link it to Instagram – which means that random people can contact you. Predators are one issue but it’s also the app of choice for cyber bullying in primary school, closely followed by Instagram.”

If your child’s Instagram (or Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr) profile is public and they use it to publicise their Kik username, then anyone who sees that on Instagram can find them on Kik. Keep an eye on the messages they’re receiving. Also be aware that once your child opens the Kik App, it stays on – get them to change their password now and then.

Don’t forget the basics

In the swirl of ever-changing technology, it’s easy to forget that there are some basic rules every kid needs to know before they venture online in any way.

  • Be careful what you share. Make sure kids, particularly when they’re starting out, know that home addresses, phone numbers, schools and other personal information is off limits online. If they’re asked for them, even at the sign-up stage for an app, they need to double-check with an adult before handing over the details.
  • Age limits matter. Most apps and social media platforms have an age minimum of 13. “This is a legal age,” says cyber bullying expert Susan McLean of Cyber Safety Solutions. “It’s not decided by the app or the website but comes out of a law in the US.” That law is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The App Store also imposes its own ratings – and it’s worth noting the 17+ rating on Kik.
  • Parents know passwords. Keep track of your kids’ account information so you can keep an eye on their profiles. Let them know that your intention is not to spy but to keep them safe.
  • No one else knows passwords. Remind your kids that passwords and logins are not to be shared with friends, no matter how close. If other kids can log in, there’s a much bigger chance of cyber bullying or other online trouble.
  • Don’t talk to strangers. While many parents have this conversation about the playground, they overlook the importance of it online. Keep an eye on the profiles of those your kids are associating with online and make sure it’s only people they know in real life. If you spot someone you don’t know, ask about them.

This article was written by Allison Tait for Kidspot.com.au and has been adapted for Kidspot.co.nz

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