Police warn that children are at risk on Kik app

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Kik has even been called a "predator's paradise"...

Social media platforms and apps -- especially instant messaging apps -- are here to stay. But along with their benefits are also risks, and for children, these dangers include those posed by online predators. One popular instant messaging app called Kik, is making the police and parents rather concerned for how it exposes youngsters to danger. Is Kik secure? Definitely not yet.

france bans phones in schools lead Police warn that children are at risk on Kik app

Is Kik secure? No, it's "a predator's paradise"

Like many social media apps, Kik allows users to message one another in real time. The company, founded in Canada, has about 300 million registered users around the world. It is especially favoured and mostly used by tweens and teens for its cool features, like emoji stickers.

However, there are several reasons why it's unsafe for children to use this app.

Mainly, Kik:

  • doesn't need a mobile number for successful registration. All you need is a username to message others.
  • states in its policies that only people at least 13 years old can use it. Yet, it has no ways to confirm how old users are.
  • can be exploited by paedophiles, according to Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the child protection lead for the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) in the UK. 

A past sex offender had even remarked that Kik was a "predator's paradise". And it's not hard to see why. 

Many cases of child abuse via Kik have occurred in the past.

In 2016, 13-year-old U.S. girl Nicole Lovell, was kidnapped and murdered by someone she had contacted on Kik.

Recently, Kik's policies have even interfered with police investigations in the UK. This case also involves child abuse, where a 35-year-old man confessed to grooming a 14-year-old boy and forwarding him age-inappropriate images via Kik.

A serious threat: "Children aren't safe in their bedroom"

In fact, the increase in Kik referrals paralleled the growing number of online child abuse cases within recent years.

Chief Bailey is alerting parents that reports of child abuse and grooming linked to Kik in the UK has ballooned up to four times since mid-2016. 

UK police have, up to date, begun investigating 1,500 cases which are linked to Kik this year. The police are taking matters seriously, as an additional £20 million has been invested to help the police address the issue of internet grooming.

He explains that Kik is an online platform where "people who can go ... and purport to be whoever they might want to be" while hidden dangers loom at the background. Mr Bailey believes that Kik is the perfect example where poor safety policies and design "gives paedophiles the confidence to go online and groom"

“Many parents work on the premise that ‘well my child’s upstairs in the bedroom they’re safe’ and they are just not,” stresses Mr Bailey.

How Kik is responding to improve cybersafety

According to The Telegraph, Kik has made plans to heighten security concerning its use, setting aside $10 million (£7.6 million) solely for cybersafety.

A spokesman said: “This is a priority for us. We want all users to be safe on Kik and will continue to make Kik a safe, positive and productive place for our users to interact. We take online safety very seriously, and we’re constantly assessing and improving our trust and safety measures."

According to the spokesman, there are a few ways to prevent future cases of child abuse on Kik. Specifically, he mentioned to:

  • Update technology and always refine the app as much as possible. 
  • Fostering users to report cases of abuse. Kik supports existing users to report anything they see that could count as a breach to Kik's Terms of Service and Community Standards. 
  • Punishing those who are responsible. Kik says violators of Kik's Terms of Service and Community Standards will suffer disciplinary action, including being taken out of Kik - depending on the situation.
  • Block or ignore potentially dangerous people.
  • Educate users or partner with cybersafety organisations. These organisations will be able to aid adults and teens in making sense of issues they can face in the internet today.

The spokesman continued to say that Kik is committed in ensuring its safety among users. “This is a priority for us. We want all users to be safe on Kik and will continue to make Kik a safe, positive and productive place for our users to interact," he says.

References:

Telegraph

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