*Trigger Warning. This article contains information that some may find disturbing.*
Kik Messenger is notoriously known as a freeware instant messaging mobile application. After a user registers under a username, Kik unlocks a world that transmits and receives messages in many forms. This includes text, live photo and video, saved images, sketches, mobile web pages and more. With its immediate download to iOS and Android devices, Kik had over 300 million registered users as of 2016. Although further data regarding Kik’s users have not been disclosed since it is estimated that 40% of all enrolled users are teenagers from the U.S.
Due to its advertised anonymity, young adults are particularly drawn to this application. The false sense of security it provides and the inability for parents to monitor what goes on in the app is resulting in increased participation in unsafe and harmful online activities. Often, these kinds of behaviors do not give a positive reflection of who these students really are.
Like the majority of digital media applications, this app wasn’t intended to provoke such controversy. In 2009, a group of students from the University of Waterloo in Canada founded Kik Interactive with the hope of setting out to create new technologies for users accessing mobile smartphones. Kik was the first brainchild developed under Kik Interactive. It was released the following October launching to popularity with one million user registrations in just 15 days.
Throughout the following years, Kik would face a number of lawsuits as well as an ongoing legal battle with copious organizations and businesses. Despite the trouble this application created, it generated millions of dollars in investments. This money was put towards evolving the application to ensure it remained a current trend for younger users. With an adolescent audience in mind, Kik hastily became a vehicle for child predators to contact children discreetly and anonymously. The platform has now become ground zero for kids being blackmailed, exploited, kidnapped, sexually assaulted and even murdered.
For years this application faced scrutiny in playing a key role in the grooming of children for the engagement of horrific child acts of sextortion and exploitation. It continues to make headlines today.
On Tuesday, July 28 the Dayton Daily News reported that Robert L. Hudson was sentenced to the next 16 years behind bars for using Kik Messenger to receive and distribute child pornography. His account was also in operation to communicate with others who were actively engaging in child sexual exploitation. The app became a way for him to connect with children and lure them in. This investigation also led to the arrests of David Dwayne Weaver and Zachary Marra who were both found with the possession of images and videos of child pornography on their electronic equipment. The graphics were received and traded with other pedophiles utilizing Kik.
13-year-old Nicole Lovell also fell victim to the dangers surrounding the anonymous instant messaging platform. Back in 2016, Lovell thought her dreams of boys and romance were coming true when she discovered 18-year-old David Eisenhauer online. She first made contact with Eisenhauer on Kik Messenger. After sharing endless messages containing details of her life, the relationship escalated to meetings outside her bedroom window, ultimately leading to her abduction and stabbing.
After an overwhelming number of illegal occurrences, talks about shutting down the app surfaced. Unfortunately, the app remains alive and available to anyone with a mobile device. It is our recommendation at SGS that Kik Messenger should not be used or downloaded by anyone, especially individuals under the age of 18. If you do choose to interact with messaging apps outside of the original applications found on your device, here are some safer options for you and your family to consider...
- Group Me is a messaging app established by Microsoft. Being a Microsoft product, it has better security and monitoring capabilities. Typically used for educational groups or team purposes, Group Me is a free communication application offering messaging capabilities to every individual that provides a phone number or email address. The goal of Group Me is to connect individuals no matter how their personal devices differ.
- An extension of Facebook, WhatsApp is considered one of the most used instant messaging apps. This is due to the fact that the platform extends past national boundaries through international communicating including video and audio calling in addition to texting. It is important to note that WhatsApp provides end-to-end encryption for privacy and that isn’t always a good thing.
- With the right supervision and education on digital branding, Snapchat can be a useful resource for multimedia messaging. Snapchat opens right up to the camera for capturing images and videos to instantly share with friends and family. Other features include video/ audio calling and chatting. Having frequent conversations about the content being shared and who that content is being shared with is crucial to someone’s success in using Snapchat productively.
We ask our community to educate yourselves on these applications and remain cautious. While some applications may have better regulations than others, any online platform can be abused by its user’s Participation in a third-party app for conversing can be considered a red flag for behaviors individuals are attempting to keep hidden. Every form of communication offered on a digital device should be monitored to ensure safety and security.
This information does not guarantee online safety and is provided as a courtesy of Smart Gen Society. SGS is not legally responsible for your family's digital planning or safety.