Explainer: What is Kik?
Update: Kik Messenger is due to shut down in mid October 2019.
What is Kik?
Kik is a mobile messaging application that can be used on both android and iPhone. The popular app which is free to use is similar to Viber and WhatsApp but has some additional functions that differentiate it. For example, an internal browser, meaning users are encouraged to spend more time within the app.
The app has been in the news recently, if your child has a Kik account, caution should be taken.
The main functions of Kik are:
- One to one chatting
- Send messages, videos, pictures, gifs, etc.
- Group chat (with up to 49 other users)
- Anonymous chat
- Promoted Chats allow users to follow and chat with different brands in music, entertainment and more. Users will know a promoted account by the Green Star beside their profile.
Are there any restrictions?
If your child is under 16 and has created a Kik account, the messaging app encourages parents to submit a deactivation request by contacting email@example.com. Note: Use the subject line ‘Parent Inquiry’ and include your child’s Kik username and age in your message. Note: The app currently has an age rating of 17+ on the app store.
Who can my child talk to?
The app allows users to connect with people in their phone book/contact list who already have a Kik account. This option can also be turned off by going to settings > chat settings > and turning off address book matching. By turning off address book matching, your child can only talk to people who know their username.
Your username is your identity on Kik. This means details like email address or telephone number aren’t made public on the app. To add someone as a connection on Kik, you must know their username. The app recommends users choose a username that is hard to guess, this will help minimise contact from strangers or people that your child may not know or want to talk to. If your teen is using the app encourage them not to share their username on other open social networks for example on Twitter.
Other Features – The Kik Browser
Kik messenger also offers internal apps through its browser encouraging users to remain within the app itself. These internal apps include stickers apps, meme generators, games and dating style apps that allow users to chat with new contacts which may be concerning for parents.
Two such apps are Match & Chat and Flirt! Match & Chat works in a similar way to Tinder, matching users by ages, gender etc. What is worrying about Match & Chat is the ease with which a user can chat to others users of any age they want. For example users can select to chat to teens users, users in their 20’s,30’s etc.
The Flirt! App also available through the Kik browser presents users with a list of new users within their age range to chat to. Again, users can easily pretend to be someone else, give a different age on their Kik account etc. We would not recommend either of these apps for teens. If your child is on Kik, caution needs to be taken especially regarding the above apps.
There are stickers available to purchase on the Kik app, however users must have a credit card associated to their Google Play or iTunes account in order to make a purchase.
What are the risks?
In addition to the potential risks from using Kik’s internal dating-style apps, there are some more general risks and things to watch out for. These include cyber bullying, experiencing or sharing inappropriate content and chatting with strangers which is very easy to do on the Kik app. To help avoid these problems, the same rules should apply to all online interactions for young people; only share data with those who you trust in real life, block/report unwanted contacts, think before you click and report any inappropriate data or messages to a trusted adult.
What to do if my child receives an unwanted message
Kik recommends users ignore and block unwanted messages from others users. You can also report other users here: kikinteractive/support
For more info on what to do go to: kikinteractive.zendesk.com/
- Tap Settings.
- Select Chat Settings (on your iPhone or Android) or Privacy (on your Windows Phone, Symbian or BlackBerry)
- Select Block List.
- Tap +
- Select the person you want to block.
- Tap Block to confirm
Alternatively you can either visit their profile, click on the icon in the top right hand corner, the option to block them will then appear. Users who have been blocked will not know they have been blocked. If your child is in a group with someone they have blocked, any messages that appear in that group from the other person will show up as ***Blocked Message***.
How to manage messages from new people?
Users on Kik can message other users if they know their username. When a user gets a message from a new contact, the message will appear in the New Chats section at the bottom of your chats section in the app. If you receive a New Chat, tap on the chat, users can then choose if they want to chat or ignore the message. By selecting ignore, users can then either block, delete or report the user for spam. For more info on managing new chats go to: kikinteractive.zendesk.com/entries/