Today I want to share 5 things that any parent with children who have access to a device with the internet should know about TikTok.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is THE world’s fastest-growing social media platform. That means your kid is or knows one of the many kids who are actively creating and consuming its content.
What is the app all about?
TikTok is a China-based social media app owned by ByteDance and it’s used for creating 15-second music, lip-sync, and talent videos. ByteDance acquired the popular app Musical.ly in late 2017 and rebranded as TikTok. They now boast 500 million + active users worldwide with a stated mission “to capture and present the world’s creativity, knowledge, and precious life moments, directly from the mobile phone. TikTok enables everyone to be a creator, and encourages users to share their passion and creative expression through their videos.”
What’s essential to know as a parent?
There are lots of great articles for parents about TikTok but below are 5 essential things I think parents should know about TikTok in order to stay informed about their child’s exposure, consumption, and privacy.
- TikTok is specifically intended for kids ages 13 and older.
TikTok states that their app is specifically geared towards users 13 years of age and older. However, there is no age-verification process when signing up for the app. This means younger users can still sign up and access all features of the app’s content which include popular music with explicit lyrics and trendy hashtag searches.
- TikTok settings default to public for all new accounts.
All new accounts default to a public profile. That means anyone can see your child’s profile, send them direct messages, and access their location. A quick look at privacy settings and you can update what content others are able to see and you can also set the account to private. However, keep in mind that as stated on TikTok’s website “ Even with a private account, profile information – including profile photo, username, and bio – will be visible to all users.”
- TikTok facial recognition feature is coming.
TikTok will soon be rolling out in the US a new face and object search feature and is already part of the Chinese version of the popular app. This new feature will allow users to search for a person’s face and see other videos they’ve created. You can also scan objects and clothing to get access to where you can purchase the same or similar items.
- TikTok public forums can foster bullying at times.
The app works on a heart-based “likes”, and as with many public forums, they are not monitored by the owners. Thus, these forums have been used for negativity and bullying other users’ “passions” and “creative expressions”. And although the app has a statement against Harassment and Cyberbullying the app is not free of these actions.
- TikTok time limit settings give parents more control.
For parents that want a bit more control, there is a handy time limit feature included in the app nestled in the support center under Digital Wellbeing. Settings allow parents to control how much time their child is allotted for the app’s usage based on the restrictions you determine for your child’s digital wellbeing. However, as with any time limit feature, children find ways to work around the restrictions when motivated so it is important to stay active in your child’s digital life by checking on them regularly and monitoring their consumption.
Keeping your children safe online can feel like a daunting practice. It’s not easy staying on top of the latest trends and apps in our kid’s lives. However, taking the proper precautions and setting boundaries can not only put your mind at ease, but it can also allow your child ways to still have fun and express their creativity.
Remember to have ongoing open conversations with your kids about the content they’re consuming when on TikTok and encourage them to come to you when/if they’re seeing content that is harmful or inappropriate.
If you feel unsure of how to start a conversation on internet safety with your kids and where to start, check out another post I wrote on 5 Books Every Grade School Parent Should Know Regarding Internet Safety. Or, If you need additional resources to help you with internet safety or with how to help your kids navigate tricky things in the digital age give one of our therapists a call. We are here to help!
Stay safe in this digital world. Be creative. Don’t parent alone.
**As of the date of this blog post, TikTok and their parent company ByteDance are under US Federal investigation for their data security process. Authorities are questioning whether or not the app stores US user data in China and whether that data (user information, pictures, content, etc) would be turned over to the Chinese government if asked, giving them access to all of your child’s information.
Owner | Child Therapist | LCPC, RPT
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