With the rise of private messaging apps, it is no surprise that children and young teens are finding their way onto them. One of the most popular messaging apps is known as KIK. You may be wondering the same thing many parents are: what is kik? We feel that there are a few things parents need to know about KIK.
If you have been paying attention to the news, you may have heard the story of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell. The teenager frequently used the anonymous messaging service to communicate with new people. Specifically, Lovell had been communicating with 18-year-old Virginia Tech student David Eisenhauer, who is now being charged with the teen’s murder. A female student, 19-year-old Natalie Keepers, is also being charged in the abduction and death. Lovell considered Eisenhauer to be her boyfriend, but the truth is that something much more sinister was going on.
It is easy to look at this scenario and think that Lovell is the only victim, but this simply is not the case. Other minors have also been victims of using KIK, as the anonymity of the app allows predators to use it freely. This leaves parents with a vital question: How do I protect my child when access to apps like these are so prevalent?
First, what is Kik?
KIK is an anonymous messaging service that allows users to create usernames to chat for free with the 200 million others. You do not necessarily need to know somebody’s username in order to chat with them. In fact, you can chat with virtually anybody around the world. Additionally, it can be difficult for law enforcement to track these messages and find the perpetrators of crimes.
Learn more about Kik here:
Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kik_Messenger
Open Phone Policy
Lovell’s friends later expressed that the young teenager had planned to run away with Eisenhauer and start a family. Even if you do not suspect that your child has similar plans with somebody they have met online, checking your child’s phone can help you determine if there is something inappropriate going on with your own child. The best way to protect your child is to have an “open phone policy”. This is as simple as a spontaneous peek on a regular basis at what your child is doing on their phone. Some parents simply choose to friend their children or simply monitor their social media by asking for login/password information. However, you should keep in mind that often with today’s tech savvy kids this might not be foolproof since they could set up two accounts – one that you follow along with, and another that they may keep hidden from you. I discuss this in detail on a previous blog about hiding apps.
Parental Controls to Help With Blocking Access to Kik
Setting boundaries with the types of apps that your children and teens are exposed to is easier when you use a trustworthy parental control software.
Talking to your children and teenagers about staying safe online is essential. Encourage your children to think before they post. Anything they put online can be seen by literally anybody with an Internet connection – even if they think they are being discreet or private.
In Lovell’s case, she told friends that she was talking to an older boy before she met up with him. Could open communication between parent and child have resulted in a better understanding of why meeting up with or even communicating with strangers online is a dangerous idea? Lovell had been grounded for talking to men on KIK, but sadly her search for compassion and affection led her back to the app. Keeping our children and teens safe online is an ongoing task for parents, but one well worth taking to keep them safe and educated about the dangers of the online and offline world!