Instagram + Kik–The Dastardly Duo

Just when parents got their heads around the ins and outs of Facebook, another social media tool has come to the fore. Instagram is a popular photo sharing tool. Users upload photos, and others can comment. Anyone you allow can see both the photos and the comments.

Instagram

Seeing that most eQuippped readers are parents, I will cut to the chase: what do you need to know to keep your kids safe on Instagram? The biggest safety risk is this: the default settings are “public,” which means anyone, anywhere can see photos your kids upload. Instagram boasts over thirty million registered users worldwide! That's a whole lot of potential viewers, so the first thing to ensure is that the account is set to “private.” This means that only nominated friends can see their photos and comment.

If your teen wants to use Instagram, here are some “house rules” you may want to establish (and these apply to any internet usage):

  1. The account must be set to private. (See above.) This should be non-negotiable and regularly checked.
  2. Your kids can add only friends they know personally: no strangers, no vague friends-of-friends'-friends. Parents, do a cull every school holidays, when you sit them down and make them prove they know everyone in their list.
  3. Geotagging should be disabled on every camera and device they use. Many people don't realise digital cameras embed location data into photos. Almost anyone can access that info and find out where a photo was taken–your child's school, even your home. Posting a geotagged photo of inside your house is tantamount to posting your address online, which any sensible person would never do.
  4. Discuss what photos you allow them to post. Talk this through with them so they are clear about what is appropriate–don't just expect them to understand. It is not unreasonable to disallow photos of themselves and allow only photos of animals, objects or scenery. Photos that show school uniforms should not be allowed. Remember that their friends may have different house rules, so your child could end up in one of their photos. Teach your children NOT to post friends' photos without getting permission. This is common 21st century courtesy–or it should be.

Now to Kik…

Kik Messenger is an instant messaging service. Kids use it to chat online, often via the Kik app. The big problem with Kik is that it appears to have a feature built into that shares users' contacts. RIM, the makers of Blackberry, decided it was too risky and removed the application from its app store. That says something, as Blackberry has built its reputation on good security.

Used in conjunction with Instagram, the pair makes a dastardly duo. Instagram users can put up photos, and users may comment. Sometimes, a comment will say something like, “Kik me at ___(a Kik user name),” which means, “Let's chat–not here but on Kik”. Up until now, the comments have been visible to anyone; however, once the users move over to Kik, it goes “underground.”

And herein lies the danger: Users can continue the chat without prying eyes. Predators (who unfortunately don't advertise that fact) can ask for more photos or phone numbers or anything else that would not be acceptable in a more public space. Read this post for a real scenario of a girl in the US who thought she was talking to someone her age until that “friend” requested “pictures of her privates”.

Kik is way too risky for kids and teens. It lacks the transparency, regulation and controls that are needed to keep young users safe. Their contacts are also at risk. If they have the app loaded on their iPod, iPad, or smart phone, you should consider deleting it, and going to the website to delete the account.

Regularly review with your children some basic safety principles:

  1. Don't engage in any way with anyone you don't know ever. Even if they “say” they are so-and-so's friend, they could actually be some random who's slipped in on the sly.
  2. If you feel uncomfortable about something, block the person and tell your parents right away. That uncomfortable feeling is a “warning sign”. Help your kids learn to recognise and heed their gut reaction.
  3. Limit time on devices and online. Less access = less trouble. It doesn't get simpler than that!

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Australian police issue warnings about Kik.

For more on Instagram, check out this eQuipped post: The Good, The Bad, & The Iffy of Instagram.

Here’s an eQuipped report on all the Kik basics.

 

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