My tween daughter has been chasing us around for months begging to download the Kik app on the old iPhone she inherited from my husband. Kik Messengers is a free text messaging app for smartphones.
If you ask my daughter, EVERY tween has it – except her of course! While I haven’t conducted a scientific poll, it does seem that the majority of her 5th grade friends are “kik”ing each other. But, one of my grandmother’s favorite sayings was, “You don’t jump off of a cliff because everyone else is.” So, we decided to do some research.
My husband took to the internet and found a blog post by High Tech Dad on the dangers of Kik and Instagram combined. (Instagram is another app my tween has asked for. Instagram’s lack of controls, open access and the very personal nature of photography led to us giving a resounding “no” to the request for this app.) In High Tech Dad’s piece, he explains how the combination of Instagram and Kik Messenger can lead to tweens having conversations with absolute strangers. These strangers find tweens on Instagram and then chat with them on Kik. A potential pedophile has access to photos and a clear way of communicating – a very scary thought!
Since our tween doesn’t have Instagram, my husband downloads Kik to test it out. He gets a warning that you must be over 18 to download – a bad sign. After playing with the app and not connecting it to any social networks he comes to the conclusion that it “might be ok”. His one complaint: entire conversations can be easily deleted. We decide to stall. Our daughter ups the ante with a letter:
“I should have Kik because all of my friends have it and I don’t have to wait to talk to them. I can ask my friends what the homework is if I didn’t write it down and we can help each other with homework. I can send messages from my heart. I would have it on private and wouldn’t chat with strangers. If anything makes me feel uncomfortable (like some stranger starts texting me) then I would tell you. I would let you know who I’m texting, what I’m texting about and let you see my phone whenever you want. The best part is it’s FREE!”
Tweens are a persuasive bunch! Ok, she almost has us but I decided to do one last search on the internet. What I found shocked me. Be Web Smart, a parenting and technology blog, has a post on the reviews that can be found in the Apple App Store when you download Kik. There are currently 19,201 reviews for Kik. Those reviews include ages, names, Kik IDs and a lot more. Some are claiming to be underage and most are promising photos, “dirty” talk and more. A quick scan of these reviews makes it clear that Kik is being used for sexting and pedophilia. A few screenshots of Kik reviews enough to send any parent running (names have been scrubbed):
For now, I refuse to allow my daughter to use Kik. But I am torn. I trust her to make the correct decisions. I trust that she will do exactly what she says in her letter and let me know if she is “uncomfortable”. Do I want to put her in that situation? Do I want her to “send messages from my heart” to potentially dangerous people or open her up to cyber bullying? I’m not ready to allow it but I’m open to discussion.
Hablamos! Let me know what you think.
While you are here, check out our other reviews for popular apps for tweens & teens: