We wouldn't recommend 'Kik' for under 18s - Helen Westerman
In this week’s column, I would like to take a look at Kik which, as many of us will know, is a free instant messaging app that lets you send text, photo and video messages to individuals or groups.
You can also play games and talk to chatbots. The makers of this app have given an official age rating of 13+. However, with the ‘Meet New People’ feature that lets you start a conversation with random users we wouldn’t recommend Kik for under 18s.
In fact, Net Aware, our website run in partnership with O2, has given Kik an overall safety rating of very poor. The whole premise of Kik is to connect and share with others who have similar interests. Users on Kik can remain relatively anonymous as only usernames are shared with other accounts. This makes it easier for children and young people to chat with adults and be at risk of seeing inappropriate or upsetting content. As there are no automated moderation or filters available Kik relies on users to report anything inappropriate, so this type of upsetting content will not be deleted straight away even if it breaks the app’s community standards.
One positive is that it is easy to report and block another user on Kik and I would recommend reading the app’s community standards with your child so you can both understand what is and isn’t acceptable. Another practical step you can take is to check the privacy settings on your child’s Kik account. We recommend only sharing things with friends and always keeping your location private.
It is worth bearing in mind that ‘Public Groups’ are designed to let people meet others with similar interests, but a lot of them deal with adult or more mature subjects, such as sex, self-harm and suicide. Your child might think Public Groups are a good place to explore and talk about particular topics, perhaps because they’re dealing with something themselves. While discussing issues with other people can be helpful, it is key to remember that Public Groups aren’t moderated. This could mean your child might see something that is distressing or even triggering.
But as always open and honest online safety chats with your child will hopefully give them the confidence to tell you, another trusted adult or Childline if ever something happens online to disturb or worry them. In these conversations, be sure to help your child think about what they share online and who sees it. Compare it to what they would be happy to share offline.
And remember you can find more information about your child’s wider online world and the most popular apps, sites and games they’re using at www.net-aware.org.uk