What It Is:
Kik is an application that provides a messaging service over a cellular data network or wifi internet connection.

What It Does:
Kik acts similar to the text message feature on a mobile phone with a few important differences.

  1. It does not require a cellular network or telephone number. Accounts are created with a valid email address, and users can have unlimited different accounts.
  2. A message sent via Kik uses the device’s data network or wi-fi, meaning it doesn’t count as a text and is therefore not regulated the same way as a text from a legal perspective.
  3. Unlike regular SMS messaging, Kik allows in-app browsing, as well as basic levels of social sharing like images, videos, and games.

Would My Child Want It?:
We find that younger teenagers like Kik more than older teenagers. Those who like Kik tend to fall into one of two categories:

  • They don’t have text messaging on their phone or iPod.
  • Their parents check their text messages, but not Kik (because their parents don’t know what Kik is yet).

Where Can It Be Used?:
Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Nokia

What Should I Watch Out For?:

  • Lots of In App purchase opportunities to add additional features
  • Easy to create multiple accounts
  • Users are not verified, meaning people aren’t necessarily who they say they are
  • Potential to become friends with people you don’t know
  • Same pitfalls as regular text messaging

What Are The Positives?:
Like most social messaging apps, the vast majority of Kik usage is benign. Teenagers tend to use Kik for its intended use, as a text message replacement tool. So if your teenager doesn’t have texting on their phone or iPod, this gives them a way to send text-like messages to their friends, parents, etc.

What Are The Negatives?:
Part of the appeal for teenagers is that most parents don’t know that they are using Kik. This can lead to a perception of privacy that may not be healthy. If you don’t think anyone knows about it and if you are confident no one will ever check what you’re sending, human nature says that over time, you are going to be drawn to talk about and potentially look at things that your parents don’t approve of.

Likewise, because of the in-app browser and the ability to share photos/videos, teenager may be exposed to inappropriate content.

Another pitfall: because Kik uses a data network to share messages instead of an SMS message. SMS messages are regulated by the FCC, while Kik messages are not, so if something happens to your teenager as a result of Kik, it’ll be up to Kik to decide if they will cooperate with an investigation or law enforcement. That seems like a minor thing but if a crime occurs it can become a serious barrier.

Also, the vast majority of Kik users in the United States are younger teenagers. That target demographic has some inborn pitfalls to watch out for, namely that it can attract pedophiles posing as minors to earn the trust of teenagers.

What We Think:
When used as intended, Kik is not acutely dangerous than regular text messaging. Should you decide to allow your children to use this service, any guidelines you have in place for texting should also be in place with Kik. And be sure to monitor their usage.