Kik the habit

In recent weeks we have seen a phenomenon in the schoolyard. An increased use of a free social messaging app for smartphones called Kik. It has become the number one free social app in the USA and one that users are taking on with enthusiasm. Sadly there are many younger uses taking advantage of the free app as well. Parents may think nothing of it. An app that is free and allows their children to communicate with no expense. But there are always two sides to the story.

Kik is free. But it is also private and uncontrolled. So a whole range of ‘conversations’ can be had alongside the normal schoolyard ones. The danger of using Kik comes when combine Kik while using other social media like Instagram. Michael Sheehan, technologist, blogger and passionate parent has some very important things to say in his blog post on High Tech Dad: Parents Beware: Instagram & Kik Messenger Are A Dangerous Combination & What Social Dangers to Check For. Even Instagram seems to take a semi “official” line and advocates instagrammers using Kik as well – because it is ‘private’ but you don’t have to reveal any of your personal information.

Technology and how our kids use it is a parenting issue. It is here to stay. We need to be active users of technology alongside our children to ensure that privacy is being maintained. Whether it is Facebook, Instagram or the like we need to be having continuous conversations about the ever changing terrain of social media. Have you had any encounters with Kik and your kids?

Here are some online safety tips that Sheehan believes parents should think about:
  1. Privacy on Instagram – while Instagram has some privacy settings, there aren’t that many. You can block users and you can make your pictures/account private. They don’t seem to enforce a 13 and over age group when signing up. So, be sure that you set your child’s profile to “private” meaning that only people who are allowed can see photos that are posted.
  2. Only allow followers that you know – this is true with any social media service. I have made a rule with my kids that they can only allow people that they know to follow them on Instagram. It’s a bit more difficult if the profile is public.
  3. Do NOT allow Kik – It is private, it is un-regulated, it does not have privacy controls or parental controls. From what I can tell on it, having played with it on my kid’s iPhone (prior to me deleting it), is that it merely accesses your contacts and allows you to know who of your contacts are using it as well. You can block users but there is no auditing of accounts nor linking to other social network profiles (which might actually be a better way to ensure the authenticity of a user).
  4. Censor the photos – I recommend not letting your child post pictures of themselves. Try to restricts posts to pets or objects or non-identifiable items. When photos of kids are posted, you are potentially exposing kids to strangers peeping into their lives.
  5. Turn off Location/Geo-tagging of photos – it’s better to be safe than sorry. Most smartphones now tag each photo with geo-location data. While cool to see where photos are taken, many times the uploaded photos still contain that geo-specific information. Turn that feature off!