Kik… Can’t you buy clothes there? Kik, in this case, is a messenger service that aims to connect people. If you’ve been looking around for alternatives to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, you may have come across this popular offering.
Kik is a messenger service that allows registered users to chat with each other publicly and privately. As with other offers of this kind, various functions are available – such as sharing photos, images, videos and GIFs, and the possibility of a video chat. What is special about Kik is that registration is only possible with a user name. You do not have to give your phone number, but it is recommended. The full name, an e-mail address and the date of birth are requested, but there is no check whether you have entered the correct data. This makes it very easy to create an anonymous or fake account. So you can never be sure which person is really behind a profile.
Another special feature of Messenger is that you can create public or private group chats with up to 50 people. Public chatting works by entering hashtags. This can also be problematic, as it makes it easy to come into contact with strangers.
The platform makes it very easy for children and young people to come into contact with unfamiliar users and receive unwanted messages or photos with, for example, frightening and/or sexualized content, due to the anonymous registration and the possibility of randomly searching for user names. The risk of cyberbullying, sexting and cybergrooming can be very high here.
If you skim the reviews of the offer in the app stores, you get the impression that many users are looking for contact with sexual innuendos, especially with younger users.
It is also unclear where exactly the data sent via Messenger ends up. Teenagers can share personal information, pictures and videos with other users, which can then be redistributed without their knowledge.
According to the provider, registration on the platform is possible from the age of 13. By providing a false date of birth, you can easily get around this.
With some security settings, Kik tries to make the use of the messenger service more secure. On Kik ‘s website, you can find a “Safety Center” that gives you tips on how to keep your own profile as private as possible, for example. One also learns how to delete, block or report other users. However, the safety instructions are only available in English.
Your child really wants to use Kik because friends use the app too? Consider whether there are alternatives that are safer for your child and their circle of friends. If you can’t avoid Kik, you should definitely talk to your child about possible risks and communicating via Messenger. Research and consider together how to stay safest on messenger services. Install the app with your child and get to know it together. Also, discuss what to do if your child encounters unpleasant messages and cyberbullying or the like.