In September of 2019, Kik Messenger announced that it was going to shut down. The anonymous messaging app was one of the most dangerous apps we had ever encountered and had a major child predator problem — in 2018 the BBC reported that the Kik Messenger app was featured in 1,100 child sex abuse cases in the UK alone. As of this update, they have not set a date for closing down the app but the closure is imminent.
Before it shut down, the Kik Messenger app was featured on CBS-affiliated television station WTSP due to the dangers it posed to students.
SMS vs Facebook Messenger vs WhatsApp vs Kik Messenger
What do these apps do?
Kik allows anyone on the app to contact your child and directly message them. The app is NOT based in the USA.
- SMS Text messaging is one of the primary apps that each phone has. All accounts are connected to phone numbers.
- Facebook messenger (owned by Facebook) allows you to chat with anyone on Facebook.
- WhatsApp (owned by Facebook) requires you to verify yourself using a valid phone number as your username.
- Kik allows anyone on the app to contact your child and directly message them. The app is NOT based in the USA.
How much do these apps cost?
WhatsApp is free for the first year. Then you have the option of extending your subscription for $0.99 per year.
- SMS app is installed on each phone by default. Depending on your mobile plan, you may need to pay for text messages.
- Facebook is free to download and to use.
- WhatsApp is free to download and try for the first year. After a year, you have the option of extending your subscription for $0.99 per year.
- Kik messenger is free. However, it offers in-app purchases (stickers, other).
What can you send using these apps?
What are the app age restrictions?
Kik Messenger has an age restriction of 17+ years old. However, many students 8-18 years old use this app.
- SMS: No age limits
- Facebook Messenger: 13+ years old
- WhatsApp: 16+ years old
- Kik Messenger: 17+ years old (However, many students 8-18 years old use this app)
How popular are these apps?
- 88% of all teens text their friends
- 55% do so daily
- Median texts per day ~60
- 1.49 billion active users worldwide
- 41% of US teens use Facebook
- 900 million active users
- 8% of US teen Internet users chat via WhatsApp
- 200 million users
- 40% of US teens & young adults use Kik
How to create an account?
Only email address is required to set up a Kik account. This allows predators to quickly create fake usernames.
- SMS: Users need to have a phone number.
- Facebook: You need to create a Facebook account using your email or phone number.
- WhatsApp: All accounts are connected to phone numbers. To create an account you’ll need to verify your number via SMS.
- Kik: An email address is required to set up your account. This low barrier to entry allows predators to quickly create fake usernames.
How to find other users?
To contact people on Kik you need to know their usernames (or guess their name, like spammers do every day).
- SMS: You need to know a user’s phone number.
- Facebook: Receive messages from anyone on Facebook (initiate contact with users from your Facebook friend list).
- WhatsApp: You can only contact people if you know their phone numbers and they are saved to your phone’s contact list.
- Kik: Need to know someone’s username (or guess their name, like spammers do every day).
Who can contact you?
- SMS: Anyone, who has your phone number. Students can block numbers.
- Facebook: Almost anyone on Facebook (depending on your privacy settings).
- WhatsApp: People that have your phone number saved in their phone.
- Kik: Anyone, who has your username (or guesses it).
How to protect your kids using these apps?
On Kik, students can block other users, however we suggest that students delete this app.
- SMS: Visit iPhone Settings > Messages > Filter Unknown Senders This will allow you to sort people that are not in the contact list.
- Facebook: Add your student on Facebook and monitor who they are adding as friends.
- WhatsApp: Students can block other users. Know your student’s phone pass code and review messages.
- Kik: Students can block other users, however we suggest that students delete this app.
Are these networks safe?
- SMS: Safest for students – trackable and least difficult for parents to monitor.
- Facebook: Green zone – users are tied to their real identity and Facebook has built in safety.
- WhatsApp: Grey Zone – Facebook safety is built in but not as safe as SMS or Facebook Messenger.
- Kik: Red Zone – encourage your student to delete this app. Spammers and predators try to chat with students.
Safety tips for kids using these apps
Remind your students these usernames attract predators: sexy, hot, beautiful, single, bored, girl/boy or similar.
- Don’t rely 100% on blocking apps or tracking apps.
- Have a dialog with your students about their future (and what they can do on their phone to get them there).
- Remind students not to share their personal phone number with anyone online they don’t know.
- Remind your students these usernames attract predators: sexy, hot, beautiful, single, bored, nice, girl/boy or anything similar.
- Students should never reply to messages from people they don’t know (especially on Kik app).
- Other apps exist: Instagram and Snapchat also have robust chat messaging systems your kids might use.