TikTok is in the news. Currently the app is struggling to prevent a suicide video from being displayed on its platform. Despite efforts to remove it, users continue to upload it again, sometimes hiding it behind an initial, innocuous image of something like kittens. Younger viewers have been traumatised by it. Some police forces are advising that the app should be deleted for younger children until this issue has been resolved.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a Chinese-owned, video-sharing, social networking app. It is hugely popular with teens. It has an age limit of 13+ but it is easy to circumvent this restriction using a fake date of birth. TikTok allows users to create short videos of up to 60 seconds, then share them online with friends and other TikTok users. These may be musical, comedy, animals etc. Users can give and get feedback, comments and likes on their performance. They can choose from 1,000s of popular tunes and use lip syncing, dancing and special effects to enhance their videos. The most ‘liked’ performances form part of a leader board, creating competition and an incentive for users to deliver even more memorable performances. The app also allows direct messaging between users, although this function is restricted to users over 16 years.
Is TikTok safe for children?
Although it is very popular, and can encourage creativity, the app can also reveal children at their most vulnerable, expressive and, in some cases, provocative, in their bid to become the next internet sensation. The app encourages videos to be shared, and the use of hashtags (#) increases the viewing audience. It has had some bad press over the years due to concerns over deadly pranks, grooming and unsuitable content (eg. bad language, suicidal, pornographic). Inevitably, it attracts paedophiles due to its popularity with children.
What should you do?
As with all online accounts, we recommend that parents get involved, so that they understand the apps that their children are keen to use. If you are not comfortable with your child dressing up and behaving suggestively whilst lip syncing to the latest tunes, TikTok is one to avoid. If you do allow your child access, be aware that accounts are public by default, so make sure you activate the privacy settings and other safety features available within the app. Give out as little personal information as possible, keeping your child’s name and location private. TikTok’s website states “Even with a private account, profile information – including profile photo, username, and bio – will be visible to all users. Counsel your teen not to reveal personal information such as age, address, or phone number in his/her profile.”
Visit https://www.tiktok.com/safety/resources/for-parents?lang=en for an explanation of Family Pairing – this requires a parental account as well as a teen account and will enable parents to control screen time, turn off direct messaging, and restrict inappropriate content. Set up accounts to be “private” so that your child can choose who sees and follows their content and who can duet with them. Content shared on public accounts can be seen by anyone. There are “Report” and “Block” functions if your child come across inappropriate content or contact
See TikTok’s Top 10 Tips for Parents at https://newsroom.tiktok.com/en-us/tiktoks-top-10-tips-for-parents
Talk to your child about boundaries and the sort of content that should never be shared online. Even young children can get caught up in the drive to collect “likes”, so make sure you have a conversation with them to explain why this is both unwise and not the best way to feel validated. Ask them to show you the sort of content they and their friends are creating or watching and explain what is safe and unsafe. Ask them from time to time if anything is worrying them and remind them to tell you if they come across any inappropriate content or contact. Check their privacy settings from time to time too, to make sure they are still private!
Be aware that this app collects personal information of its users and shares it with third parties. For more details see https://www.tiktok.com/legal/privacy-policy?lang=en