Is Kik safe for teens? An app safety guide for families

Children using Kik app

You have a new message.

The tiny dopamine hit we feel when we see these words on our screens may help explain why direct messaging apps are among the most popular apps – for adults and kids. 

Our annual data report showed that kids in the US spent 45 minutes every day exchanging messages on WhatsApp, Messenger, and similar apps. 

But parents need to be aware of another, more controversial, messaging app that’s particularly popular among young teens.

What is Kik?

Kik is a Canadian-born messaging app that claims to be “your place to chat and message with all of your friends and to make new ones.” The app’s popularity has grown steadily over the past decade and now has over 300 million registered users worldwide; 70% of them aged between 13 and 24 years old.

Although Kik is classed as a messaging app, functions like anonymous chat and live streaming differentiate it from other apps like WhatsApp and Viber – and cause Kik to be a major safety concern for parents. 

What is Kik used for?

The main functions of Kik are one-to-one chatting, sending videos, pictures, gifs, etc., group chatting, live streaming, and promoted chats; a feature that allows brands to engage with users through chatbots.

Public groups allow users to meet like-minded people based on their interests. You can search for existing groups or create your own. 

Kik also offers internal apps including meme generators, games, and, perhaps worryingly for parents, dating apps that allow young users to meet and connect with strangers. 

How old do you have to be to use Kik?

Children as young as 13 can use Kik, despite the App Store labeling the app inappropriate for under 17s due to its explicit content. Kik says that permission from a parent or guardian is required for those aged under 18.

As there’s no age verification process though, there’s nothing stopping users from lying about their birth dates when signing up – another big red flag for parents. 

Is Kik safe for teens? 

The anonymity of its users combined with other troubling features make Kik one of the least safe messaging apps out there. 

The app has the potential to expose users to serious online and offline dangers – but you don’t have to take our word for it. The app has been at the center of high-profile cases of cyberbullying, grooming, kidnapping, sexual assault, and even murder

One felon who spent 10 years in prison for child molestation called Kik “a predator’s paradise” and admitted that “it’s quite common” for pedophiles to pose as young teens to strike up relationships with children. 


Boy using Kik app


What makes Kik so dangerous?

After using the app ourselves and reading about others’ experiences, we’ve identified five major safety pitfalls that all parents of young Kik users need to be aware of. 

1. Users are anonymous

Being able to chat anonymously without parents knowing is probably what attracts so many teens to Kik in the first place, but it’s also what makes the app so potentially dangerous. 

There are no requirements for a Kik user to sign up with their real name or phone number – all a user needs is an email address which can easily be created in minutes. 

Users can receive direct messages (DMs) from anonymous users without having to accept an invite first, meaning teens can be sent texts, pictures, or videos without their consent. You can opt to disallow messages from strangers in the chat settings, but the default is to allow messages from anyone. 

This anonymity effectively shields cyberbullies, sexual predators, sextortionists, and other users who are out to cause harm.

2. Teens make up a large chunk of its users

Many of the app’s attractions, like anonymous chatting, meeting people and dating, and live streaming, speak directly to the young. Coupled with Kik being free to use, it’s unsurprising that a large proportion of its users are teens.

Worryingly, this unprotected pool of young people will appeal to sexual predators and others looking to take advantage of the impressionable. 

3. Kik has dating apps

Although Kik is first and foremost a messaging app, you can search for third-party apps within Kik’s internal browser. Two of the most popular are the dating apps Match & Chat, and Flirt!

Both apps turn Kik into a Tinder-like experience where the user is encouraged to find romance by swiping on profiles based on age and other preferences.

Many parents would be concerned about their kids using dating apps in general –  but ones where users can remain anonymous and fake their ages? That’s a chilling thought for any family.

4. No parental controls

Despite the serious dangers that teens could expose themselves to by using the app, Kik has no parental control tools. 

Fortunately, an all-in-one parental control app like Qustodio can bridge this gap and help keep your child safe, whether by monitoring and restricting Kik’s use or by blocking the app completely.

5. Racy content

Putting aside the sexually explicit conversations found throughout public groups and Kik’s dating apps, it’s the app’s in-built live-streaming feature that might alarm parents the most.

Kik Live allows users to stream themselves and watch others stream live. The service highlights the most popular streams  – which are, more often than not, scantily-clad men and women pushing the limits of Kik’s community standards

Kik: Qustodio’s safety recommendation

The anonymous nature of Kik and its lack of critical safety features mean that there’s nothing stopping users from lying about who they are to get close to your child. The steamy streaming service and third-party dating apps only serve to make Kik one of most inappropriate messaging apps available to minors.  

Based on our experience of using Kik, parents’ opinions, and the criminal cases involving the app, we do not recommend it for teens under 17.

What can you do if your child is using Kik?

If your child is already using Kik, we recommend an open conversation to ensure they are aware of the serious risks involved in connecting with strangers online.   

As Kik has no in-built parental controls, we suggest that families safeguard their children with a parental control app like Qustodio

Qustodio can help you…

  • Block Kik from being opened
  • Receive an alert when your child first uses the app
  • Set time limits for its usage 
  • Pause the internet to immediately halt access to the app

Kik is a messaging app that has some critical safety flaws that could expose teen users to serious online and offline threats. Staying informed about such apps can help families take a proactive approach to the digital safety of their children. 

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Qustodio is the best way to keep your kids safe online and help them create healthy digital habits. Our parental control tools ensure they don't access inappropriate content or spend too much time in front of their screens.

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