When I was young, ‘Kick Me’ was a phrase that was scrawled on a piece of notebook paper and stuck to an unsuspecting kid’s backpack. These days, ’Kik me’ is a way to ask other people to message you on an application for your smartphone. Kik, advertised as the fast, simple, and personal smartphone messenger, is popular with the 13-26 age group and currently boasts more than 50 million users, with 20,000 new users estimated to be joining each day.
Why is it popular? Kik messages are said to be sent faster than text messages – but I believe Kik is popular for different reasons. For the under 18 crowd, Kik is a way to send messages more privately. Since Kik messages are sent through the application, they don’t show up on your phone bill. Also, parents who don’t know what Kik is won’t check it when they look at their kids phone, because why would they?
Why is it dangerous? The deeper I dove in my Kik research, the more the thought of my little sisters using this application began to make my skin crawl. The first red flag I saw was this: when I went to download the app from the iTunes store, a warning popped up (picture below) asking me to verify that I was over the age of 17 in order to download the application, due to age restricted content. Interesting since this application is so popular with middle and high schoolers.
The next red flag came when I looked at the reviews for the application in the iTunes store, almost every single review I saw as I scrolled through the thousands of comments was a Kik user sharing their Kik ID and asking (COMPLETE STRANGERS!!) to ‘kik’ them. The reviews read like a Craigslist personal ad with the users ages (Most under – or claiming to be under – the age of 18), interests (“I can help with your homework!”), and description of their looks (“I’ve been called cute a lot”). Lastly, after I downloaded the application and set up my user ID, it was only a matter of hours until random users began to ‘kik’ me and ask me for ASL (age, sex, location).
My advice? If your child is not 18, be a good cyber citizen and have them delete the app. It’s not meant (or appropriate) for their age group – hence the warning that pops up before the app download begins.
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