Kik app popular with teens and predators

Posted at 10:03 AM, Feb 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-11 10:03:40-05

When your child opens up a social media app on their smart phones, who are they really chatting with?

There are new concerns over kids and the apps they use after the late January murder of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell in Virginia. She had started a relationship with an older man she met on Kik, 18-year old David Eisenhauer. The teen's friends warned her about using messaging apps like that to talk to older men.

Police say Eisenhauer and a fellow Virginia Tech student are charged in her abduction and murder. Police say Lovell's murder was pre-meditated.

It's a tragic end to a young life, an ending Michigan authorities want to prevent from happening to other teens.

Detective Sergeant Dan Cook with Michigan State Police's Cyber Section says agents deal with Kik and apps like it regularly.

"They feel comfortable in discussing things that they normally would not be comfortable with discussing face-to-face," says Detective Sgt. Cook.

The app allows you to message other users if you know their user name. But, authorities say it's easy to find users, because usernames are often listed on other sites. You can list your Kik username on your other social media accounts.

"You can then instantly be connected to various other social media apps," says Cook, "But, the security settings are generally overlooked."

Kik has safety guidelines for parents online, the company also told me in a statement that "We continue to be diligent in working with relevant authorities and in educating the public about online safety matters...We provide Kik users with features that allow them to block and report any unwanted contact, including from strangers."

Whether it's Kik or any other social media app, Detective Sgt. Cook says open up your application store.

"Look at the top 20 apps that are on there," he says, "ask your kids if they are on them."

Then, educate yourself. Talk with your kids about having strong privacy settings, and turn off location services.

"They very well may be giving their exact location to their home,"

In a time when everyone is chatting online, taking precautions can go a long way.

Nicole Lovell's dad was aware about his daughter's online communications with older men, he claims in the interview with Dr. Phil that he just grounded her from all social media before she was murdered.

Her parents took away her phone before Christmas but gave it back.

Michigan State Police tell me it's also a good idea to check and see if your kids have multiple accounts on social media sites.

None of this attempts to vilify any social media apps, it's all about safety.