Since its inception several years ago, Kik Messenger has amassed hundreds of millions of registered users and boasts several million users per day. The popular chat application has grown massive, and its frequent use by young people has prompted the question, “Is Kik Messenger safe to use?”
The easy answer and one that we’ll move through quite quickly is, “Kik is as safe as you make it!” This is an easy fact to fall back on, but it does nothing to reassure users who are worried about their own safety and security, or moreover, parents that are concerned about the app that their teenagers are using to contact their friends. Kik is remarkably accessible, which is a blessing for those that want an easy app to pick up and use, but it also creates some need for thoughtful caution in how people conduct themselves while using it. These are the concerns that I hope to address below, and I’ll aim my thoughts to answer the questions posed by concerned parents and security-conscious individuals alike.
First, it’s important to understand a few basics about how Kik Messenger works. It’s an exceptionally simple app to get into, but it carries with it a wide variety of features that take some practice and technique to get used to using on a regular basis.
Kik Messenger requires only a few simple things in order to get started: an email address, a unique username, a password, and a display name. Providing your phone number is optional when you’re signing up for a fresh account, but it’s certainly not necessary; this fact alone makes Kik immensely appealing to many users since it allows them to participate in a large chat network without sacrificing personal information. Additionally, it allows a veil of anonymity for users that don’t want to reveal much about themselves.
If the double-edged nature of that fact doesn’t stand out enough, I can elaborate: there’s privacy to be found in anonymity, but also a certain amount of caution that must be exercised by other users when they’re interacting with people. Unless you know for certain that you’re speaking with a known friend or acquaintance, it’s a good idea never to make assumptions about who is on the other side of any particular display name.
This raises additional concern for parents, which is what I’ll address first.
Is Your Teen Safe Using Kik?
The internet has been a boon and a curse for teenagers.- J. K. Rowling
Take note of the fact that I used the word “teen.” Though Kik is certainly a secure app, I cannot recommend anyone younger than a teen using it. There are a few reasons for this particular assertion of mine, and I’ve divided them into separate topics so that their reasoning can be a little clearer.
As I said above, it’s exceptionally important that users and parents of users realize that absolutely anybody can create a Kik profile. Within that profile, a user can choose to display any name that they’d like, even to the point of being intentionally deceptive with how they present themselves. This isn’t entirely a bad thing, though, and with the proper amount of caution, the anonymity that Kik gives to its users can be a good thing. Since you aren’t required to tie any personal information to your Kik profile, you won’t be at risk of anyone finding out information that you don’t divulge yourself.
The Importance of Usernames
One thing that many take for granted is just what I’ve mentioned above–the lack of personal information tied to Kik accounts. However, because you don’t have any personal information tied to your account, the unique username that you create when first signing up for Kik takes on even more importance.
All that is required for another person to message you (or your teen) is your username. Once you have someone’s username, you need nothing else to begin sending them messages. In terms of accessibility, this is a good thing! It allows you to get in touch with people without needing to jump through any extra hoops. When approached from a privacy and security perspective, however, it can be concerning.
Thankfully, Kik also features an easy-to-use “block” system to prevent unwanted contacts from sending you messages. I’ll be elaborating upon this more below, but the unique username possessed by each user carries a significant importance in Kik. Every user, not only the parents of teens, should be aware of this.
Media Messaging and Kik
For those that have been around for the rise of cellular devices’ popularity, it’s easy to think of messaging systems like Kik as simply another way to send text messages. However, most messaging apps are far more than that, and Kik especially escapes the narrow confines of what a mobile messenger can do. It comes bundled with its own web browser and affords its users exceptionally simple methods of sending media to each other. Pictures, video, and links to websites can be embedded in messages to any user that you’re able to contact.
Once more, this is fantastic in terms of accessibility alone. If you’re a user concerned about security and safety, or that of your child, then this carries additional risk as well. If anyone with your username can send you messages, then anyone with your username can send you any type of media. This fact only reinforces the importance of being careful with one’s username.
Additional Tips for Kik Parents
There’s plenty of literature from parenting experts that give more explicit instruction on how to manage teens’ interaction with digital messaging applications, but a few general rules can be laid out here:
- Know your child’s username on Kik
Most experts will tell you that you’ll never be able to stay “one step ahead” of your kids’ online and digital activities, and that remains mostly true. Youths are exposed to innovations and changes in digital communication more rapidly than any other group and are always the quickest to embrace it. You can, however, keep track of the means by which they access such applications. If your child is a Kik user, let them know that you need to know their username. You won’t be able to observe their every activity (and you shouldn’t), but it will let them know that you are present.
- Don’t be afraid to revoke mobile device privileges
In addition to being aware of your child’s activity on Kik Messenger, don’t be afraid to revoke their possession of the app in the first place. Many young people use the veil of anonymity provided by apps like Kik in order to misbehave and bully. Should you ever observe behavior like this, then uninstalling the application can be an equivalent reprimand to taking away a misused possession or privilege.
General Kik Users and Safety
Kik has millions of users, and while many of them are younger, it’s still helpful to consider the general online safety of a broader range of Kik users. Though the facts above remain unchanged and will apply to anyone using the popular chat service, there are some more generally applied questions that we can pose to Kik’s safety and security.
I promised to elaborate on the importance of the unique username that you choose when you first start your Kik profile. One of the things that all users must know is that spreading your unique username to people that shouldn’t have it can only result in trouble. Kik itself is an inherently safe platform. Misbehavior, misuse, and disregard for personal information are the greater culprits for individuals’ safety than anything present within the Kik Messenger application.
Instead of sharing your username in public places like social media feeds and forums, choose instead to share your username on an individual basis. If you can control who is able to message you in the first place, your Kik experience will be a great deal safer. Additionally, choose an username that isn’t easy to guess. Avoid using your own name, and instead, opt for a series of words, letters, and numbers that utilize both uppercase and lowercase. This will help your username to remain impossible to guess. Since you can alter your display name to whatever you’d like, there’s no need for your unique username to carry even an inkling of your personal information.
Lastly, and perhaps this could almost go without saying, always be mindful of the types of media that you share on messaging platforms such as Kik. While your communications are as secure as you and the intended recipient keep them, you should always avoid sharing personal images or video with people that you cannot trust to keep it. The digital era has broken down many barriers with regard to how we view images of ourselves and each other, but caution should always remain at the front of our minds when doing so.
The web has plenty of literature regarding the safety of online chat platforms such as Kik Messenger. This article provides only a cursory examination of some frequent concerns surrounding personal safety.
The answer to the question, “Is Kik Messenger safe” can still be answered quite simply, even if it’s a complicated issue. Yes, Kik is safe. Inherently, it’s a very safe place to communicate, but like any other online communication tool, it’s only as safe as you make it!
Do you have your own stories about the safe use of Kik Messenger? Tell your tale in the comments below!