A few weeks ago I spoke to a class of 7th graders about Internet safety and when it came time for questions a boy raised his hand and asked “What about Kik?” Talk about the million dollar question in Internet safety thus far in 2016.
Kik is a messaging app that has been making headlines. The app allows users to send texts, pictures, videos, gifs and more under a screen name they have created. It also provides an in app browser for easy web surfing and sharing. I would be lying if I said the app didn’t have me puzzled.
On one hand I want say that app is no different then AOL Instant Messenger back in the early 00s. It provides tweens and teens the opportunity to create a screen name and chat back and forth. I still remember all of my screen names and how they identified with different phases/crushes/movies and the novelty of chatting with my friends till the house phone rang and I got disconnected. It was a defining factor in my teenage years. I wouldn’t want someone to miss out on that experience.
But on the other hand we have the whole stranger danger element. Meeting up and chatting with strangers seems to be looked at as a lot less dangerous by kids these days and the Internet provides ample opportunities for people to “get to know” these strangers, so much so that when teens go to meet up with them they no longer view them as a stranger.
See why it’s the million dollar question? It is so complex.
To get a better handle on the reality of the app I read the Kik parent guide cover-to-cover, twice. Compared to some other apps I have researched, it didn’t seem like the worst app kids could be using. My original thought was that if used properly with parental guidance, the app could provide kids with a fun platform to interact with their peers. To me the app seemed like most things in life, it can be used for good unless you are seeking out a way to use it to cause trouble. But I couldn’t confidently settle on this idea, there wouldn’t be a lot of hype for no reason right? I couldn’t confidently tell parents that there was nothing to fear. I felt that there was no other way to fully grasp the ins and outs of this app, other than to download the app myself.
The Kik Experiment
At the end of my experiment with Kik I hope to provide a confident answer one way or another about the safety of Kik and also be able to provide best practice advice for parents who kids are using Kik.
Here are some key stats found on the Kik website worth noting before we continue to dive into our experience with the app.
- 40% of American youth are using Kik to chat, browse and share.
- 2.5M Kik optimized websites are shared by Kik users everyday.
- Kik has a built in browsers so the Internet can be browsed and sites can be shared. without leaving the app.
- 50% of active Kik users share content each day.
- 500 million messages exchanged with Promoted Chat accounts.
- 16M users have opted in to chat with brands on Kik.
For information on the sign up process for Kik please stay tuned to the GDP blog!