People who exploit children online will soon have a powerful new tool. We don’t mean to be alarmist, but parents and caregivers should be aware of some concerning news in the social media world. The popular messaging app, Kik, is issuing a new virtual currency that will allow users to make anonymous online transactions while using the app. Under an initiative it calls “Kin,” Kik is issuing a “cryptocurrency” similar to Bitcoin, allowing people to buy and sell stuff while bypassing the traditional banking system.
What could be so bad about that? Stay with me.
Kik anticipates creating an online destination where users can spend their new virtual money. Kin tokens could be used to buy user-created content, pay for pizza delivery, or to access new “premium, exclusive groups that require a paid entrance fee.” Celebrities could create such “VIP” groups and make money by selling exclusive content, like photos, videos, or music downloads.
The Kin tokens will be bought and sold on the open market. (Kik is planning to raise a total of $125 million selling Kin tokens, including $75 million to the general public, in an “Initial Coin Offering.” It’s a way to raise money without having to go to venture capitalists. )
ONCE USERS OWN KIN TOKENS, THEY CAN OFFER THEM TO OTHERS ON THE KIK SYSTEM FOR ANYTHING THEY WANT — INCLUDING, SAY, NUDE SELFIES.
Here’s how it could work:
A child wants to join an exclusive group on Kik for fans of his favorite pop act — let’s call them Big Shot X — but he doesn’t have the money to pay for the Kin tokens required to join. One day he gets a message with an easy way to earn some tokens. All he has to do is send the messenger a selfie. Since everyone can be anonymous on Kik, he thinks, “What’s the big deal? People post selfies all the time.” So he sends a headshot. Cool. He joins the group. Then he gets another request: send a more revealing image for even more Kin tokens. At first he ignores it. Then Big Shot X posts an exclusive video for the first 100 fans who respond. The child really wants the video, but doesn’t have the tokens. So he decides to send the pic. Before too long the child has shared more than he’s comfortable with, and is vulnerable to blackmail.
We’ve worked with youth who have reported being victims of similar online blackmail. And we recently returned from the Crimes Against Children Conference in Dallas where we heard too many stories of how children are exploited like this over the Internet. News reports abound about exploitation occurring through connections made on Kik and other social media apps. Snapchat, for example, introduced Snapcash, a way to send money to your friends through the app. Search Google and you’ll find online offers like this: “Trade nudes for snapcash $$$.”
This kind of exploitation is a little more harrowing on Kik, because (unlike California-based Snapchat), Kik is based in Canada – making it harder to for investigators and police to find out who’s on the other end of your child’s message. Law enforcement can’t simply issue a subpoena, it has to work through the international bureaucracy, which can be very complicated and can take weeks and even months.
A Forbes investigation of Kik described numerous accounts of online child exploitation. A child predator interviewed on 48 Hours called Kik a “predator’s paradise.” There are entire web pages devoted to connecting sexters to Kik profiles of “girls” or “men” beginning at age 13. And the youth we work with report Kik is now popular among middle schoolers — children ages 11-13.
In a response to the Forbes investigation, Kik CEO Ted Livingston cited steps his company has taken to try to keep children safe. “We encourage users to report content that they believe violates the Kik Terms of Service and Community Standards. Users are also able to block other users they no longer wish to chat with, or ignore chats from people that they don’t know. Actions are taken against users found to have violated Kik’s community standards and terms of service, including removal from the Kik platform where circumstances warrant.”
Some 92 percent of 13 to 17-year-olds use the Internet daily, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey. For many children, their social media presence is the center of their social world. For many parents or caregivers this poses a huge dilemma. They can keep their kids from using Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, etc., but they would then be denying their children access to their friends. We understand that for many families this isn’t very realistic. So what’s a parent or caregiver to do?
OUR INTERNET SAFETY GUIDE CAN HELP. IT ENCOURAGES OPEN CONVERSATIONS BETWEEN A PARENT OR CAREGIVER AND CHILD AND PROVIDES TIPS ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP EQUIP AND EMPOWER YOUTH TO STAY SAFE ONLINE.
We wrote to Kik on August 30 to ask them to walk us through the Kik Kin token project, and to address our concerns about child safety. We got an automated email telling us they would respond in “2-3” business days:
Three business days later we got another automated note, explaining that due to an unusually high volume of requests, they would respond “as soon as possible.”
We’re still waiting.
The use of pornographic (“porn”) material among Christians continues to rise, reaching near epidemic proportions in the church. Porn, sadly, has been normalized in our churches. Why the rise in pornographic use among Christians? The Global Christian Center believes the reason is:
“Many blame the Internet, which affords users anonymity, affordability, and accessibility. Individuals reluctant to purchase pornography at a local convenience store where others might see them can now indulge their fantasies in the privacy of their own home, sitting in front of the computer. Some delude themselves into thinking that it’s “no big deal.””
Pornography is said to be a Trojan horse sin, because it opens the door to other sexual sins.
• 97% of Christian men acknowledge they have looked at porn.
• 64% of Christian men view porn at least once a month; 55% of those are married.
• 37% of Christian men look at porn several times a week.
• 77% of Christian men between the ages of 18 to 30 view porn at least once a month; 32% of those think they are addicted; 12% are not sure.
• 50% of churchgoing men admit to a serious struggle with porn.
• 65% of Christian men view porn at work.
• 25% of Christian men admit to erasing Internet history to conceal their browsing.
• 34% of churchgoing women have sought out Internet porn.
• 70% of women keep their cyber activities secret.
• Women, more than men, are likely to act out their behaviors in real life, such as having multiple partners, casual sex, or affairs.
• 54% of pastors admitted to viewing Internet porn in the past year, and 30% viewing within the past month.
Forty-seven percent of families say porn is a problem in their home. It is not only a choice for adults, but is being consumed in large numbers by our own children:
• 12 to 17-year-olds are the largest consumers of Internet pornography. Approximately 87% of teens have Internet access.
• The average age of exposure has been cited as 11 years-old.
• 79% of youths’ accidental and unsolicited exposure to porn occurs in the home.
Shocking, isn’t it? Fact: It damages relationships, especially our relationship with God. It is a fact that the viewing of pornography is the seed that germinates the commercial sex industry. Porn is advertising for sex trafficking. No wonder God tells us, “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body” (1 Cor. 6:18: NLT).
The church’s silence is only perpetuating the issue. It can no longer ignore “the elephant in the room.” It’s time to sound the alarm!
Welcome to Freedom Calling and our first blog! My name is Kimberly Davidson and I’m the director of education for Freedom Calling. My objective through these blogs is to present you with an accurate and truthful picture of what is going on in our communities and the world. Please pray for these situations and ask God to give you direction on how you might be able to help. Thank you for taking the time to read and follow our blogs, and get involved in such a worthy ministry.
Our topic today is: Game of Thrones and Porn
HBO’s Game of Thrones began airing its sixth season a few weeks ago, to fans’ delight. Though the show is replete with gratuitous sex, nudity, violence, sexual violence, language, and other vulgarities, it only continues to increase in popularity, both in viewer numbers and in social media buzz. Yet, after 54 episodes, a disheartening trend has begun to emerge.
According to statistics recently released by Pornhub, right after the premiere of Season 6, explicit searches including the title “Game of Thrones” increased by 370%. In addition, 4% of U.S. porn viewers stopped watching “adult” content to watch the episode. But most eye-opening was this comment from the site: “We discovered that Game of Thrones has remained a popular search on Pornhub due in part to…fans hoping to find a glimpse of the nudity and sex that the series is known for.” In other words, GoT has become a gateway drug: The show exposes viewers to softcore pornography, and they turn to the Internet hoping to get more.
So let’s be real: The show’s immense popularity paired with the fact that it can be accessed easily and secretly on any device via HBO Now means it would be naive of us to think students aren’t watching it. Even more so, for those who are watching it, the chances they have also accessed or been tempted to access even harder content are much higher.
Online pornography is ubiquitous and serious—we need to talk to our children about it, starting at young ages. But shows like GoT are also a big deal. We need to have ongoing conversations with students about why they’re not just “harmless” and how they hijack our visions of adventure, relationships, sexuality, etc., giving us substitutes that seem exciting and worthwhile, but only enslave us in the end.
Questions to ask: How do we decide what TV shows and movies are “ok” to watch? What has a pass and what doesn’t? Why? How do holiness and purity relate to this issue? Is there something in our lives that might start off as innocent but lead to greater sin?