What is Kik? A Quick Guide to the Scary Messaging App Kids are Using

Words by
Josh Ruggles

FEB 07, 2023

What is Kik? A Quick Guide to the Scary Messaging App Kids are Using

Direct messaging apps have had explosive growth over the past decade.

There were just over 3 billion users in 2021 and estimates put that number closer to 3.5 billion by 2025.

Kik is one of many options for a direct messaging app that has been riding that growth to over 300 million users, and a reputation that precedes it (not in a good way).

What is Kik? 

Kik is a popular messaging app among kids and teens that prioritizes anonymity. It has gained a reputation as one of the least safe messaging apps available. Specifically, Kik has a history of cyberbullying, child grooming, and even murder.

One key feature of Kik is the bot chat function, which is primarily used by brands to create engagement through the use of automated responses.

Kik initially tried to monetize the app through an unregistered cryptocurrency and was nearly shut down. After a lengthy fight with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)—it was narrowly saved by being acquired.

To be clear, Kik isn’t that different from other messaging apps, but there are multiple reasons its popularity among teens can cause alarm when it comes to online safety.

predator messaging on phone illustration

Kik targets teens

Before we get into the functionality that makes Kik a dangerous app for kids and teens, it’s important to know that teens are a primary audience for the company.

Even though the app is listed as 17+ in app stores, according to Kik’s own documentation, the app is targeting teens. Kik claims one third of American teens use the app, and more than 75% of its user base is made up of young people 14-24 years old.

Kik users are anonymous

One of the biggest safety factors with Kik is that the users can remain anonymous. There is no requirement for a user to include their real name or phone number. All a new user needs is an email address, which can be created in minutes. There are several implications that come with anonymous messaging, including shielding users who are intentionally causing harm. 

Because of their focus on anonymity, Kik is frequently used for cyberbullying and harassment, as well as extortion and child exploitation by sexual predators.

Any anonymous user can direct message (DM) another user without the recipient accepting an invite first. This means anyone can send explicit text, pictures, or videos to your teen without their consent. There are chat options that can stop random messages, but the standard setting is to allow messages from anyone.

phone with messaging illustration

While its terms and conditions have rules that are very similar to other social platforms, Kik’s anonymity, coupled with minimal usage tracking makes enforcement of their policies problematic. 

Kik has a dating app

Kik is primarily a messaging app, but it also has internal apps, including Flirt!, a Tinder-like experience that serves up potential matches to the user—encouraging them to swipe for their preferred matches.

The inclusion of an internal dating app creates room for sexually charged dynamics. Kik’s anonymity further complicates the danger.

An anonymous messaging platform with dating app functionality that is also heavily marketed to teens is a recipe for problems. Your teen could think they’re talking to a like-minded peer, when they could be a victim of catfishing, or grooming by a sexual predator.

Kik has no parental controls

Kik does have some privacy and chat settings that can create some boundaries for users, but there are no parental controls or functions. This makes it difficult to ensure your child or teen is not being exposed to explicit content or dangerous users.

Kik streaming is steamy

Like other social and messaging apps, Kik allows users to livestream themselves to the world. While this isn’t inherently problematic, Kik keeps the live streams at the top of the app with a focus on the most popular streams. 

phone streaming illustration

The highest ranked streams tend to be sexually charged, with nearly nude content dominating the top slots, meaning users are being regularly fed explicit or near explicit content.

Kik is not for kids

The reality is that Kik is not at all made to be safe for kids and teens. Even while they may market themselves to teens, there are far too few ways to make it a safe and secure experience.

If you or your teen have Kik, it may be a good idea to talk to them about the many dangers that the app brings, and explore alternative solutions that are not so sketchy. There are many other messaging apps that, while not entirely safe, are not nearly as problematic for kids as Kik. Additionally, if they do have it and are willing to remove their account, you can start them here.

Start with the safest phones for kids

If you want to keep your kids away from dangerous apps like Kik, or other addictive social platforms, Gabb could be a great fit. 

Gabb as a company is entirely focused on safe tech for kids. Our devices have no capability to access the internet or social media so there are no worries about apps like Kik. 

Want to learn more about Gabb’s kid-safe tech? Start here.

TL;DR

In a hurry? TL;DR stands for “Too Long, Didn’t Read.” Find a quick summary below.

What is Kik? 

Kik is a messaging app that prioritizes anonymity, and has gained a reputation as one of the least safe messaging apps available.

Kik targets teens

Kik is listed as 17+ in app stores, but according to Kik’s own documentation, the app is targeting teens.

Kik users are anonymous

All a user needs is an email address to sign up, making it a haven for cyberbullying, extortion, and child exploitation.

Kik has a dating app

Flirt!, a Tinder-like experience, serves up potential matches to the user—encouraging them to swipe for their preferred matches.

Kik streaming is too sexual

Kik Live is a streaming service built into Kik, which highlights the top streams, which are primarily women or men with as little clothing as is permitted by Kik.

Kik has no parental controls

Many social apps are starting to implement parental controls, and sophisticated filtering, but despite their user-base being primarily teens and young people, Kik has not developed these settings.

Kik is not for kids

This app bills itself to brands as a place to market to teens and young people, but the app is not at all made to be safe for kids and teens.

Comments

  • Amber J. on Jun 17, 2023 10:48 AM

    It should be a normal thing for teenagers to socialize with one another, to explore their curiosity, even if it's with a random person, like the ones I've found on https://kikname.com/ but of course they should be supervised by an adult

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