The question for parents used to be, “do you know where your children are?” In recent years, it’s become much easier to find out where your children are – cell phones, video chatting, and GPS devices have simplified the process of locating your kids.
You may even have noticed that they aren’t out of the house as much as you were at their ages. They don’t necessarily need to be – they have their friends and the entire internet at their fingertips from the comfort of their own homes. For parents today, the question should be, “do you know who your children are talking to online?” An unfortunate side effect of the same technology that allows you to connect with your child easily is that other people, including online predators, can also connect with your child easily. One way they’re doing this is through a popular mobile app called Kik. Here’s what you should know about who your children might be talking to on Kik.
What is Kik?
Kik is a messaging app that allows users to make anonymous accounts to chat online. There’s no age verification or sign-in required, and the app has its own web browser, video sharing tools, and even games to play, so it can provide hours of entertainment, all for free. What’s more, parents often don’t know about the app and don’t think to check it, so even parents who monitor their child’s texts and web activity may not know what their children are doing on Kik. For a teen who is looking for a little privacy in their internet use, it may seem ideal.
What Are the Dangers of Kik?
The same factors that make Kik attractive to kids are part of what makes the app dangerous. Your child can’t really know who they’re talking to on the app. Anyone could pose as a teenager and strike up a conversation with your child online. Predators who spend their time on the internet looking for vulnerable children and teens are aware of Kik, and they know how to use the app to get in touch with children and teens that might be receptive to chatting with a stranger.
Predators have used Kik to exchange child pornography, send sexually explicit messages to minors, and to lure teenagers into meeting with strangers who then kidnap or assault them – or worse. Teens may believe that they are using the app safely and know what warning signs to look for, but experienced predators know how to get past a teen’s defenses and gain their trust.
How Can You Protect Your Child?
It’s not enough to simply ban your teen from using Kik messenger. It’s important for your child to understand why it might be dangerous, because a determined teen may always find a way around a parental ban. Make sure that you’re talking to your teen about the potential dangers of using an app like Kik. Show them news stories of teens that have been tricked by online predators, and use those stories to have honest discussions about the kinds of dangers that are out there online. These discussions may be uncomfortable, but they are necessary.
It’s also important to keep track of what your teen is doing online. Checking their text messages and web history isn’t enough. You need to know which apps they’re downloading and what those apps do. If more parents were aware of Kik and other similar apps, they would be more likely to notice signs of the trouble that can accompany those apps.
Parental monitoring software is an important tool that can help you keep your teen safer online and on their mobile devices. To find out how monitoring software can help you protect your child, get our free trial.