Police Warn Parents about App They Call 'Magnet for Pedophiles'

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Imagine a pedophile being in your house, even in your child's bedroom. Not physically, but via their computers and cell phones. Police say it's happening more and more often.

Detectives are now sending out a word of warning about a Smartphone app called Kik.

Just in the WSAZ viewing area, at least four arrests have been made because of Kik. All four of the men are accused of starting up inappropriate relationships with minors by using the app.

Those are just cases already solved. Police say there are many more still under investigation.

One example is the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office. Detectives there have received three new cases during the past few weeks involving adult men using Kik to solicit young girls.

Detectives at the Charleston Police Department say it's been a problem for them the entire school year and that parents need to know about it.

“These kids are getting a hold of the app, and parents either aren't aware of it or they don't know what it is,” Charleston Police Lt. Steve Cooper said.

Kik is a social network that allows you to engage in private conversations.

“It acts as a magnet for pedophiles,” Cooper said.

Investigators say teens and even children use the hashtag #kikme along with their username and post it to Facebook and Twitter.

What they don't even realize is that's how predators are finding them. Detectives say they lure them in with compliments and then they start asking questions like "Do you have a boyfriend?" "Where do you live?" and "Are you home alone?"

Despite the app having an age limit of 13 and requiring parental consent for anyone under 18, detectives say the cases they've seen prove that the terms and agreement holds no weight.

“It's just words,” Cooper said. “There's nothing that enforces that.”

Therefore, detectives say the burden of enforcement lies on the parents.

“Check their cookies on the computer. You can check their cell phone for any apps that they've downloaded,” Cooper said. “If you see this particular app, you need to remove it and you need to explain to your child the dangers of what this app may attract into their lives.”

One reason Kik has become so popular is that it's easy to access. It works on any mobile device and to sign up all you need is an e-mail address and a username.

WSAZ.com has reached out to Kik to see if they're aware of the problems it's causing and if anything can be done to prevent them. Kik has not responded.

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