Popular messaging app Kik, that offers free, unlimited texting, along with games featuring animated characters and juvenile emojis which appeal to kids, is being used by predators to get direct online access to children, CBC News is reporting. Police say many parents have ‘no clue’ about potential dangers of the app, which allows users to send messages directly to others without first approving them on a friend or contact list.
Kik Interactive Inc, the company that created it seven years ago in Waterloo, Ontario, says it has 275 million users who are on the the app for an average of 35 minutes per session. Police say there’s a lack of parental checks and controls with Kik, and some other apps, which is one of the reasons predators are drawn to them. “The problem I have with Kik in particular is the ability for strangers to reach out to strangers,” said Det.-Sgt. Paul Krawczyk of the Toronto Police Service’s child exploitation unit.
Just last week, a man in Richmond, B.C., was convicted for distributing child pornography and internet luring. Police say Stephen Reha convinced at least four girls between the ages of 13 to 16 whom he met on Kik to send him explicit photos of themselves. He then distributed the photos to other people who had the app.
“People just go on there and they ask you overly sexual questions,” said Desiree, an 18-year-old from Toronto who described Kik as “really creepy after a while.”
Kik has also been recently cited in numerous criminal investigations throughout the U.S. and Canada, with law enforcement officials and educators warning of its potential dangers.