Joining the inexplicably massive pool of social media options is Kik, a texting alternative with an less-than-obvious appeal to anyone who isn’t 14. The messenger app is functionally equivalent to texting, except that it runs off of usernames rather than phone numbers; in fact, it doesn’t even require registering a phone number to use.
So why then, if it’s essentially just an alternative to texting that requires registration and only works with other registered users, does this app have so much mass appeal? The answer is unsettlingly obvious – it offers alleged “privacy” for those who don’t necessarily deserve or need it.
Upon googling Kik, one is met with a litany of parents guides to Kik or some variation on the theme, mostly written by concerned parents for concerned parents. This is because one of the most popular demographics for Kik is underage teens in high school, who perceive the ability to communicate without handing out a phone number as safer, as if a contact turns sour, you can erase the user and block them.
While this function would appeal to any adult for completely understandable reasons, its use takes on a dark side when considering its use among the underage. A search for #kikme on social media platforms tends to queue up hordes of nudes with “more where that came from,” so to speak, making it a popular sexting tool for teenagers. The anonymity, as well as the fact that Wi-Fi is used rather than data and old messages are auto-deleted, avoid any head-turning red flags, making it appealing to the younger crowd and outrageous to the older crowd.
Of course, Kik isn’t just used for kik sexting – it’s also popular among drug dealers, to the shock of absolutely no one. And while this is only of concern to the anti-drug camp, it takes on another element entirely when you consider that, again, underage teens are using the app for this purpose as well, making the situation dicey.
This isn’t just unfounded posturing against an app “for the children,” either – Kik has been rife with controversy since its rise to fame. There’s been an unsurprisingly high amount of adults posing as teenage users to lure sex from the younger userbase. Legal cases run the gamut from stalking to cyberbullying, but due to the nature of the app, there’s little law enforcement can often do beyond warning parents and educating kids on the dangers of anonymous online threats.
Kik, of course, takes little to no responsibility for these cases. Pointing out that it lists itself as strictly 17 and up – which is of course foolproof, as no one has ever been able to successfully lie about being above the required age to use something on the Internet – Kik emphasizes that privacy is its main appeal, so to intrude on its users would be a breach of that agreement – and, of course, Kik’s ability to monetize itself.
However, it’s also a great tool for international travelers to avoid expensive data plans. So there’s that.