RAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A convicted sex offender contacted Target 8 to add his voice to those warning parents about an increasingly popular messaging app.
Federal investigators warn that the “kik” messenger app has exposed dozens of Grand Rapids-area youth to unwanted sexual contact from strangers online. In at least one case, Michigan State Police say, a girl was sexually assaulted when a man she met on the kik app traveled to see her.
The sex offender who contacted Target 8 asked not to be identified but wanted to alert parents about the dangers the app poses.
“This is not a toy. This is something very, very serious,” the man told Target 8. “This kik app is getting dangerous.”
The sex offender was convicted of criminal sexual conduct involving a person under the age of 13 in the 1990s. Now in his mid-30s, he said he continues to struggle with the temptation to reoffend.
“I will always be a sex offender. I will always be a sexual predator,” he said. “It’s always going to be a lifetime struggle.”
Long before Sunday’s Target 8 report on kik, the man said, he came across the app after a friend introduced it to him. Immediately, he knew it was a problem.
“The first thing that I thought was, ‘Wow! I can be whoever I want to be. I can get anybody I want. I can achieve my sexual glorification through this app,’” he said. “That’s when I said ‘You know what. I have to stop this.’”
He deleted the app after using it for a time. He said he never used it to engage in inappropriate contact.
To demonstrate his concerns, the sex offender showed Target 8 the Role Play function inside of the kik app on a Target 8 phone. That function allows users to change their personal information and select the age range of those they want to contact.
Within minutes of creating a profile and without contacting anyone, two people — purportedly teenage girls — reached out to chat. One of the teens had a profile name indicating personal struggles.
The sex offender Target 8 interviewed said that is exactly what perpetrators look for.
“That’s when a sexual predator can jump in — like me. I would jump in and say ‘Hey. What’s your problem? Let’s talk,’” the man said. “I would be their comfort. I would be their go-to person.”
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The sex offender, who says he was sexually abused as a child, said he has made significant steps in his recovery and has built a support system to help him stay away from the temptations that led to his crime and control his urges.
His advice regarding kik is simple.
“Please make sure to take kik off your kids’ phone. That’s all I can ask,” he said. “Kids need to be kids. Adults need to be adults. There needs to be a line. And with this app, there is no line.”