App Gains Popularity with Kids and Child Predators

By Stephanie Parkinson

August 23, 2013 Updated Aug 23, 2013 at 5:16 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) - It's one of the most popular apps for kids, but police say it's also an attraction for child predators.

Kik boasts 50 million users, but police say some of those users are using this technology for the wrong reason.

The cyber crime division of the Indiana State Police also reports this app ranks in the top 10 for popularity. It's right up there with Facebook. And ISP gets the most complaints about child predators with the more popular social media tools.

Kik is a messaging app that allows users to use fun symbols and faces. It sounds simple enough, but the reviews are what raise red flags for one local social media expert. One user posted in the review section, "Girls only?...Nukes okay!"

Another concern, for social media expert John Kaufeld, is how much information kids are sharing through the reviews of this app. Some are posting their gender, age and other personal information, along with their username.

"Part of it is making them aware of key phases like, if someone ever says 'don't tell your dad about this, don't tell your mom about this.' That's a phase that should be a warning signal and part of it is just teaching kids to be aware of that," said John Kaufeld, social media expert, IPFW.

Kaufeld also suggests parents research the apps their kids are using, and set age limits in the devices they use.

Kik warns users they must be at least 17 or older to download the app. But nothing stops a child of any age from downloading Kik, or any app, if parents don't set age limits.

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