What Parents Need to Know About TikTok Safety

There are a lot of social media networks out there already – and keeping track of them as a parent could be a herculean task. Just when it seems like you have finally gotten a hang of them all, though, your kid springs a new one on you – TikTok.

Just like any other social media network, this one is also aimed at helping people connect with others, but with its own unique twist so it stands out. As a parent, you should be concerned about why your kid might be spending so much time here lately.

Fortunately, here is the piece that brings you all you need to know about the app.


What is TikTok?

A little background would suffice here.

Sometime ago, an app by the name Musical.ly started making the waves. The selling point of this app was in its ability to allow users create short videos of themselves, usually in line with a song, spurring a series of lip sync challenges before migrating into other features that would even make the app better.

In a growth strategy, that app went offline – and it would be replaced by TikTok from the same developers.

The new version of the app allows you create videos (as long as 60 seconds in length) with various effects, memes and other special additions. You can create more than just videos with the new app, given its support for sketches and some perks of a professional video editing studio.


Who can use TikTok?

Just about anyone with an internet connection and access to the app can download and use it from any country in the world.

In fact, the app is currently made available in some 34 languages which span about 150 million users from all around the world. That goes a long way to show the reach and acceptance that this social media app has already garnered in the society.

That said, TikTok does have a minimum age requirement. Looking at the current operational standards, the app will not allow users who are under the age of 13 to create an account with them.

Sadly, they don’t have any way of confirming the age of anyone who signs up. That means a 10-year old kid could well claim to be over the age of 30 and be granted access to the platform anyways.


What safety features does TikTok have?

As mentioned above, the app requires that users be at least 13 before they are granted access. Besides that, the social media app also works like others in this category, enabling you to filter content based on how age-appropriate they are.

One thing we especially love about the app is a usage timer which lets the user know if they have spent upwards of 2 hours on the platform at one stretch. With that, they might actually be the first social media network dedicated to making sure people don’t spend all their time surfing the in-house feed.

Likewise, there is a feature that allows TikTok users restrict the videos they create to only be seen by themselves. This way, their content remains private, and they can still use all the features of the platform as it is meant.

Besides these two, there doesn’t seem to be much else to be said in terms of safety (especially for the kids on the platform).


Valid concerns for parents

If you are concerned about the safety of your kid on the platform, those concerns are not baseless. Some of the common causes for concern are:

  • Poor content restriction – this is not just a fault of TikTok but every other service which promises to restrict poor content from being shown to those who don’t want to see it. This is mostly done with the aid of an algorithm, and there is no telling what such an algorithm will miss from time to time.
  • No signup restriction – Remember the age restriction up there? Sometimes, that means nothing. Afterall, the app will allow you view content from other people without even having an account with them. Imagine what a kid could be exposed to even without an account.
  • Contacts from strangers – This is almost self-explanatory due to how common it happens on various social media networks these days. You should always be concerned that your kids could get messaged by random strangers, and not everyone means well on social media.
  • Information disclosure – Operating a heavily text-based social media platform like Twitter and Facebook restricts the kind of information you could leak. When it comes to a video-based service, you are putting yourself out there the more. It becomes much easier to unknowingly reveal sensitive information in some instances, so more care should be taken.
  • Explicit songs – Offering the sing-along/ lip sync feature, some of the songs on TikTok are laden with expletives that could make your ear bleed. That is surely not something you want your kids exposed to.


What you should do

As a parent, this is not the time to panic. If your kid is below the age of 13, you might want to explain why they are not ‘legally’ eligible to use the app yet to them.

Should they be beyond that level, below are a combination of things you can do instead:

  • Counsel them on cyberbullying – Commenters could leave extremely mean comments on your kid’s posts. Teach them to ignore such comments and see it as nothing more than a lowly attempt to get their attention.
  • Educate them about sharing – Let your kids know that they can still enjoy all the features of the app without having to share the content with others, all thanks to the post’s privacy feature TikTok comes with. Should they feel like sharing, you can also teach them how to keep their share circle close.
  • Activate ‘Digital Wellbeing’ – The Digital Wellbeing settings in TikTok are a great way to keep a handle on most things. From there, you can activate ‘Screen Time Management’ to restrict how long the app can be used, and also enable ‘Retried Mode’ to better control the kind of content that shows up in your child’s feed.

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