Every Friday, I am answering your questions and sharing other helpful blogs and resources. So, if you have a question about kids living life online or a specific app, go to ask KidsPrivacy and watch for your answer in my weekly Friday roundup. This week, I am answering a question about monitoring.
Q: Is it possible to monitor my child’s usage on Kik and to whom she is messaging!?
A: Kik is a free messenger app. I like to think of it as a super texting app where kids and their Kik friends can have group chats and share videos or pictures. This app is especially popular among younger teens who have a limited texting plan or only an iPod Touch. Download Kik and you have free messaging. To learn more, check out my post What parents need to know about Kik.
Where kids run into trouble is sharing their private Kik username on public social networks. Teens post their username with a “Kik Me” request on Twitter, Instagram or other apps. Once they share it publicly, anyone can send them a message. The ability to share any type of content is why Kik’s rating changed from 12+ to 17+.
If you were hoping for a monitoring software recommendation, I am afraid most do not work with Kik. These programs can see text messages but not messages through a messaging app. Kik will not provide parents with access to their teen’s messages. Kik does recommend “if you’d like to monitor the messages your teen sends and receives through Kik, it’s best to ask your teen not to delete conversations, and to provide you with access to their smartphone or iPod.”
If you want to make sure they are limiting their contacts and sending appropriate messages, you can check their phone. In our house, I conduct surprise phone checks. During these checks, they sit next to me and we go through their phone. This is part of their family phone contract. I ask lots of questions and review each app.
If you decide your child is not ready for Kik, you can limit the apps they download. Parents can set age restrictions for apps by using the parental controls on their GooglePlay or iTunes account. You can also try web filtering software. I do not have a personal recommendation but I know parents who use and like Mobicip and Net Nanny.
Ultimately, the best monitoring system is the one between their ears. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it includes opportunities to discuss why it is important to limit contacts to friends and family and how easily a private message can become public.
Thanks for your question!