NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – When your child gets home from school tonight, ask them if they use an app called KIK.
Special agent Dennis Fetting with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security told News 2 that 75 percent of the child exploitation cases he investigates in Middle Tennessee are traced back to the predator making initial contact with the victim through the free KIK messenger app.
“KIK messenger is a Canadian-based social media app. Big problem with KIK is number one it is very anonymous, so it’s very easy for adult predators to be someone that they are not,” said Agent Fetting.
Fetting says the app links random strangers up with kids to chat. He created an account using a fake name and email address in a couple minutes.
“You can see my user name is set to Not Real. I created a file name with a bunch of numbers and there was no vetting of my credentials,” he explained to News 2.
“More problematic is you can explore public groups. There are any number of public groups, many of them are inappropriate, pornography based, predator based, child pornography based,” he said.
Nashville mother Lanitra Watson has a 13-year-old daughter who she says always seems to be on her phone. She told News 2 that when her daughter gets home from school this evening, they are going to have a conversation about KIK.
“I am going to ask her when she gets home from school, have you heard of these apps? Do you have any of these apps? She’ll tell me and I am going to look at her phone,” said Watson.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers the following tips to protect your children from apps where predators may lurk.
They say parents are only ones who need access to the App Store. You should set time restrictions on devices for your children and collect electronic devices at the end of the evening (that gives parents time to inspect the devices).
They also say there should be consequences for inappropriate behavior, and if you find something inappropriate on your child’s phone, there should be punishments. For more tips visit NetSmartz.org/TipSheets.