Kik Messenger has received criticism and has grown concerns among parents and police following the death of a 13-year-old girl from Virginia who revealed to friends that she was using it to talk to an 18-year-old man.
Kik Messenger recently played a part in the case of two Virginia Tech students charged with the death of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell from Blacksburg, Virginia. It also raised even more concerns when Prince George’s County elementary school volunteer was accused of using the messenger to produce videos of students performing sexual acts on the school grounds.
“Deonte Carraway was arrested Friday and is facing 10 counts of felony child pornography, sexual abuse of a minor and second-degree sexual offense,” according to a Fox 5 News report.
Kik is an app that allows you to remain anonymous and speak to whoever you want. It provides an easy and free way to send messages one-on-one or in group chats.
Like Snapchat and WhatsApp, you can send videos and photos, as well as other types of content to people. There is no age verification to join or create an account, which means that any child can use Kik. It was originally created to bypass the cell phone data rates and texting plans, but it has caused more trouble than good in recent weeks.
Sexual predators commonly use the app to lure and groom their victims. Although users remain anonymous on Kik, children often share way too much information such as their name, age, and place of address. Internet experts advise parents to become familiar with what apps their children are using, and how they are using them.
“It’s very important to have an atmosphere of trust around the use of technology so that your kids will be very open with you about what they are doing and how they are using the technology,” says Donna Rice Hughes, president and chairman of Enough of Enough, an organization that protects children from internet porn and sexual predators.
“Also for parents to draw clear boundaries of how they expect to use the technology to be used by their children.”
Law enforcement officials have also warned that using Kik Messenger can be dangerous, especially since parents cannot prevent these strangers from contacting their children if they choose to use it.
Kik has posted an updated a law enforcement guide for parents on its website. The company also rolled out an update on its app, and asked Apple to raise the age-appropriate rating from 9+ to 12+, so that no one under the age of 13 could use the service.
Kik spokesperson Rod McLeod spoke to the Associated Press on Wednesday, Feb. 3. He revealed that a lot of the blame has been placed on Kik Messenger, but it’s all messenger apps that face this very problem.
“We are trying to educate all users, parents and teens. A lot of the blame has been placed on Kik in the last two days. It’s a problem that’s spread around in the industry.”
When asked whether he would remove the anonymous feature, McLeod said: “I think part of the allure of Kik is that it is anonymous.”
According to the New York Times, four other cases involving Kik in just the past 10 days include the following.
- A St. Louis man charged with using Kik to exchange child pornography.
- A western New York man charged with finding a 14-year-old girl through Kik and, posing as a teenager, sending her sexually explicit messages and trying to get her to meet him.
- An Alabama man charged with statutory rape and the attempted kidnapping of a 14-year-old girl he contacted on Kik.
- A Colorado man charged with taking a 13-year-old Connecticut girl to a hotel and sexually assaulting her, after chatting and arranging the meeting on Kik.
To learn more about Kik Messenger, read why the mobile app is bad for kids. Also, check out the infographic below to see how it works and how you can change its settings.
— Derby’s Digital PCSO (@DigitalPCSO) February 10, 2016
[Photo by Georgejmclittle/Shutterstock]