As a parent, I’ve started to become concerned about social media. Espcially TikTok. Although my son is only 2, I am already worrying about how I will nagivate social media with him. I’ve had the impression that TikTok isn’t safe for children, or vulnerable adults for a long time so I wanted to do a bit of digging into it.
This blog post is just an overview of the issues I have with TikTok, I’m likely to write further articles going into detail some of these concerns.
Ensuring our children’s safety in the digital world should be a priority. With the rise of social media platforms like TikTok, it’s essential to understand the risks and implement strategies to protect our kids.
Parents, we need to stay informed and help our children navigate TikTok responsibly.
- 1. Understanding TikTok
- 2. TikTok Age Limit and Account Settings for Minors
- 3. TikTok Parental Controls
- 4. TikTok Inappropriate Content and Dangers for Children
- 5. TikTok Cyberbullying and Online Harassment
- 6. TikTok Mental Health Impact and Addiction
- 7. TikTok Challenges and Potential Risks
- 8. TikTok Data Privacy and Security Concerns
- 9. TikTok Guidelines for Parents
- 10. Leveraging TikTok’s Creative Potential
1. Understanding TikTok
TikTok is a video-sharing app that allows users to create and watch short videos with music, filters, and various effects. Launched in 2016 and merged with Musical.ly in 2018, TikTok has become extremely popular among Gen Z, with over 3 billion downloads worldwide. The app has an age limit of 13 years, but younger users often bypass this restriction by entering false birthdates during registration.
What Types of Content Are on TikTok?
TikTok offers a wide range of content, including:
- Dance and lip-sync videos
- Comedy skits and challenges
- DIY and life hacks
- Fashion and beauty trends
- Fitness and health tips
- News and current events
The app’s personalised algorithm tailors the user’s feed based on their interests and viewing habits, making the content highly addictive and engaging. There’s been lots of coverage lately about the algorithm serving dangerous content to adults, such as topics about self-harm, eating disorders, suicide and guns. But more on that in a different post.
2. TikTok Age Limit and Account Settings for Minors
TikTok has an age limit of 13 years (I personally think this is too young), meaning children under this age should not use the app. But we all know kids, and I’m sure you won’t be surprised to find out that it’s not uncommon for younger users to create accounts by providing false birthdates. To address this issue, TikTok introduced a “younger user” section that offers curated content for users under 13, with more restrictions on interactions and video creation.
It’s crucial for parents to ensure their child’s account is set up with the correct birthdate and review the app’s privacy settings to limit their exposure to inappropriate content and interactions.
3. TikTok Parental Controls
TikTok offers several parental control features to help parents monitor and manage their child’s app usage. The “Family Pairing” feature allows parents to link their accounts to their children, enabling them to control direct messages, set screen time limits, and restrict content. Additionally, the “Digital Wellbeing” setting allows parents to set restrictions on their child’s account, block inappropriate content, and manage screen time.
To access these controls, go to your child’s profile, click on the three dots in the upper right corner, and select “Settings and Privacy.”
TikTok Privacy Settings
In the “Privacy and Safety” section of the settings, parents can:
- Set the account to private, allowing only approved followers to view videos
- Disable the option for others to find your child
- Control who can send direct messages, comment on videos, or create duets with your child
- Set a passcode to prevent your child from changing these settings
How to set up Family Pairing
- In the TikTok app, tap Profile at the bottom.
- Tap the Menu button at the top.
- Tap Settings and Privacy, then tap Family Pairing.
- Tap Parent or Teen.
- Follow the steps in the app to link accounts.
Remember that these privacy settings won’t prevent exposure to inappropriate content or cyberbullying from approved followers. Please be aware that many children will have burner accounts without their parents knowledge, these may even be on friends devices.
4. TikTok Inappropriate Content and Dangers for Children
Despite its age limit and privacy settings, TikTok can still expose children to various risks and inappropriate content, such as:
- Sexual or violent content
- Dangerous challenges and stunts
- Discriminatory or offensive commentary
- Misleading or harmful information
As parents, we need to maintain an open dialogue with our children about the content they encounter on TikTok and encourage them to report any harmful or inappropriate material.
5. TikTok Cyberbullying and Online Harassment
Cyberbullying is a significant concern on social media platforms, including TikTok. The app’s features like “Duets,” “Reactions,” and commenting can be exploited by bullies to harass, ridicule, or troll other users. To protect your child from cyberbullying, review their account’s privacy settings and encourage open communication about their online experiences. The introduction of image, video and voice AI are also another concern. Bullies may use your childs content to create deepfakes or other images/videos of your child.
6. TikTok Mental Health Impact and Addiction
TikTok’s addictive nature can have negative effects on children’s mental health. The pressure to gain popularity and create engaging content can lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, and even depression, especially if they face negative feedback or cyberbullying. Additionally, excessive screen time on TikTok may contribute to sleep disturbances, poor academic performance, and reduced physical activity.
If you let your children have a TikTok account, you should set boundaries and monitor your children’s TikTok usage, ensuring they maintain a healthy balance between online and offline activities.
7. TikTok Challenges and Potential Risks
TikTok challenges are popular among users, often involving dance routines, pranks, or other creative tasks. While many challenges are harmless and fun, some can pose significant risks to children, such as dangerous stunts, harmful substances, or inappropriate behaviour. Parents should stay informed about trending challenges and discuss the risks with their children to promote responsible participation.
TikTok’s blackout challenge has been linked to the death of 20 children, 15 of which were under 12. Now, if that doesn’t terrify you, I don’t know what will.
8. TikTok Data Privacy and Security Concerns
TikTok collects user data, including device ID, browser type, IP address, and app usage information. This data can be shared with third-party service providers and business partners. In the past, TikTok faced a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fine for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by collecting children’s information without parental consent. It was fined £12.7 million for failing to protect children’s data.
9. TikTok Guidelines for Parents
To help your child safely navigate TikTok, consider the following guidelines:
- Delay allowing your child to have TikTok for as long as possible.
- Discuss the risks and responsibilities of using TikTok with your child
- Ensure your child’s account is set up with the correct birthdate
- Review and adjust the privacy settings on your child’s account
- Monitor your child’s activity and screen time on TikTok
- Encourage open communication about their experiences and concerns on the app
- Stay informed about trending challenges and discuss potential risks
- Teach your child about digital citizenship and online safety practices
10. Leveraging TikTok’s Creative Potential
Despite its risks, TikTok can also be a platform for creativity, self-expression, and learning. By implementing safety measures and maintaining open communication, parents can empower their children to use TikTok responsibly and explore its positive aspects but there are way more concerns than benefits. In my opinion, it’s better to keep your child off social media for as long as possible.
I understand that may be a challenge, especially if your childs friends are on TikTok and they feel left out Hopefully the tips above will help you navigate some rules and openness around this social media. Solidarity to all parents trying to protect their children from the dangers of social media.