Police Issue Warning About Child Predators Using Kik to Contact Children
By Steve Jefferson – WTHR
By Emma Koch – NBC33
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WTHR) — Police have a warning about a new smart phone app. Cyber cops tell us more child predators are using apps like Kik to contact children, and police are powerless to stop it. Some parents are already outsmarting would-be predators.
Cyber cops say your children are not alone on messaging apps like the one called Kik. Child predators are downloading the free app with high hopes of befriending your kids.
“It’s hard for parents to see what’s going on,” said Sgt. Michael Hornbrook, Indianapolis Metro Police Cyber Crimes Unit.
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?…Nudes 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.
Sgt. Hornbrook runs IMPD’s Cyber Crimes Unit, which is recognized nationally for its work busting online predators. He urges every parent to do what Shelli does: get downright nosy about your kids’ smart phones.
“We have to be able to be their friends on whatever social media they are on and we also monitor,” she said.
Sgt. Hornbrook says for every app like Kik, there are thousands more. What’s worse is that many have no built-in parental safeguards.
“There is no way they can actually monitor Kik like you can Facebook if you become their friend. So that becomes a real challenge. When they are doing something, how about looking over their shoulder?” he said.
The maker of Kik Messenger is based out of Canada, so tracking predator online activity on Kik is almost impossible for cyber cops.
Police say the first line of defense comes at home.
“The majority of the time, something happens to these kids with one of these pedophiles – one of the first things they are told is don’t tell your parents,” said Sgt. Hornbrook.
Hornbrook says unfortunately in most cases their victims have already shared too much information with the predator by the time police get involved. In one case, cyber cops tracked a predator in Australia using a smart phone app to message kids in Indianapolis.