KiK Messenger from KiK Interactive was a hot app last year having been released late in 2010. In March 2011 they received $8m in series A funding. The basic operation of the app is as an instant messenger, think Blackberry Messenger or iMessage and you have the general idea.
KiK Bad App or Bad Users?
I saw them at SXSWi and even tried their service out for a while, I decided it didn’t really serve any purpose for me, that wasn’t to say it wasn’t good, I just didn’t fit their user profile. However, it turns out that teens love the product and with good reason, it is a network and a communication tool in one and because it is on their phone can be used anytime, anywhere. Therein lies the issue, even the most digitally savvy parents might not think to check a free app that allows instant messaging for ulterior motives.
A brief check of the ratings section on the Appstore reveals exactly what they are using it for, yes you guessed, sexting. The problem is, like with so many social networks, there is no age verification, so while the people posting their usernames and saying they are a 15 year old girl there is no guarantee that it is not in fact a pedophile using the app to groom their next victim. Take a look at the screenshots below from the appstore where people are using the review section to connect with other users. These are just a couple but the first one thousand reviews I looked at were all very similar.
I reached out to KiK for a comment but they didn’t respond, I guess they aren’t too worried about how their app is used. I’m not suggesting that they designed the app to be used this way but I think that they have a duty of care to police the community they have created and to try and provide an environment that doesn’t allow for the exploitation of minors. If your son or daughter were listed in these reviews would you feel that this was a good app for them to be using?
What are your thoughts? An app gone bad or just some bad users and not something that parents should be worried about?