Is Kik Messenger Dangerous for Teens?
I was so excited to get my first cell phone that I didn’t spend a great deal of time looking through which handset had the best features. I had just spent months persuading my parents that not only did all my friends have cellphones (they didn’t) but that my safety was at stake because if anything happened to me I would not be able to contact them. They capitulated and agreed to front half of the cost if I could save my pocket money and pay the other half, which technically meant they were paying for all of it.
I chose a handset from a now defunct company that weighed about 3lbs and looked as though it belonged on the Apollo missions to the moon. I then paid for some credit to place on the phone in order for it to work. To apply the credit to your device you had to type in this huge number the shop assistant gave you and it would register the money to your phone so that calls and text messages would come out of that credit. I finally got all set up and ready to use my new phone when I realized that I didn’t have anybody to text or even call.
Kids these days will find it a bit difficult to understand the struggle I went through getting credit for calls and texts on my cell phone because most phones don’t work that way anymore. Most text messaging plans are unlimited and there are no additional charges for calling numbers outside the same area code. With many phones sporting high-speed wireless Internet and Wi-Fi capabilities, kids can use the Internet to make calls and send texts for free. Instead of using a phone’s standard SMS and standard calling, kids prefer to send messages via applications to stay in touch with each other.
It’s not just letters and numbers that kids send now. These new Internet and smartphone messaging applications allow for instant sharing of images and videos from the Internet or from the camera attached to the phone.
It seems like every few days a new application is on the scene that offers a different way to communicate. Essentially they are all very similar. The main deciding factor in choosing which chat app to use is determining which apps are being used by those who you are already comfortable communicating with. There are some reputable companies who offer free communication service where you can contact only people you know through the number that are listed in your phone but it’s when the companies give you the option to communicate with strangers that alarm bells should start ringing for parents.
Kik is one of those applications that immediately starts to raise some concerns. The app allows you to get connected with people in your area so you can send any sort of messages you like. Instead of a phone number, each user creates their own screen-name which can be used as an easy way to share contact information. What happens is that it becomes easy for individuals from all over the world to get personal contact information and bombard people with scams or other forms of harassment.
Reasons for Concern
One of the reasons this app is prone to bad experiences is the number of people who create fake accounts to harass, intimidate or pressure other users into giving up personal information and compromise their safety. Adult websites and other unscrupulous cyber-villains have created what is known as “spam-bots” which are computer programs designed to use Kik as if they were actual people. Pre-set sales pitches are sent to users in timed and calculated ways that compel Kik users to view harmful or graphic websites.
Parents always gain an upper hand when they learn to use the same apps that their children use on a smartphone or tablet. In addition to finding new ways to communicate or be entertained, learning how to use the same apps as our kids will give us more insight into the kinds of challenges that our children face every day. Parents are well-equipped with life experience and can provide a responsible note of common sense to situations that will make it easier to avoid pitfalls or recover from mistakes should they be made.