TikTok has become a part of family life whether you are a parent or a child. For example, your child may spend hours creating TikTok videos or beg you for permission to download the app, said Stephanie Thurrott of NBC News, an American news division. TikTok is a social media platform individuals can use to lip-sync or dance along with songs or share the videos they produce with friends or other TikTok users.
They can also follow other creators without posting their own videos. Anyone can become viral on TikTok, with many TikTok celebrities having 100,000-plus followers and the biggest stars boasting 10 million or more followers. Regardless of the platform your child uses—be it TikTok or YouTube Kids—they will likely encounter security and safety threats, said Maressa Brown of Parents, a parenting magazine.
TikTok Usage and Safety Statistics
In a 2019 report by Global Web Index, a market research SaaS company, internet users aged 16-64 years who were members of TikTok were from Asia-Pacific (36%), North America (12%), Middle East and Africa (11%), Latin America (10%), and Europe (10%), reported Duncan Kavanagh. 52% of TikTok users can be classified as status seekers, 1.3 times the global average.
The users agreed that they seek to achieve more in life and tend to buy premium versions of products. They were also brand conscious and want to be respected by their peers. Some of the most distinctive attitudes of TikTok members were buying a product to be part of the community built around it (52%), buying brands they see advertised (61%), and becoming easily swayed by other people’s opinion (49%).
The users also said they are brand-conscious individuals (63%) and are comfortable with borrowing money (41%). Further, the users also felt positive about the global economy (61%) and the future of the environment (64%). In a poll by online survey platform Survey Monkey, 45% of teens using TikTok skyrocketed last May/June 2019, up from September/October 2019’s 17%, said Laura Wronski.
Compared to other platforms, Instagram declined from 76% to 74% in a span of four months while teenagers using Facebook slightly increased from 33% to 39%. This was also seen in Snapchat users, with 67% of teens using it last September/October 2019, up from 65%. Since the app is popular among young people, 84% of 1,862 parents said they worry about TikTok the most compared to other platforms, according to a 2020 survey by OnBuy, a UK online marketplace and Amazon alternative, quoted by Oldham Evening Chronicle, a daily newspaper in the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham, England.
92% of respondents believed that TikTok needs to do more to make the app safer for kids and only 33% believed that their child is safe using the platform. Among trends, 40% were worried about the viral “skull beaker” challenge more than any other trend, followed by the “outlet challenge” (22%), and the “fainting/choking challenge” (19%).
TikTok: Where Creativity Flourishes
“TikTok can be really fun. Some videos are lighthearted and cute, and can be a source of creativity for kids,” says Christine Elgersma, senior editor of parent education at Common Sense Media. For example, Vivian Manning-Schaffel perceived her 12-year-old daughter as “obsessed” with TikTok. The New York City mom said her daughter loves creating funny videos, lip-syncing, and expressing herself in song. The app’s editing features help children produce professional-looking videos. Like any other app, it is also important for parents to monitor what their kids can do and share with other TikTok users.
3 Precautions Parents Should Take to Safeguard Their Child On TikTok
1. Keep Your Child Away From Inappropriate Content
It is possible for your child to see videos of people cursing, wearing scantily-clad clothing, and dancing suggestively. According to Elgersma, she has heard of nudity on TikTok, but she herself has not seen anything. She added, “But I have seen things I would not want my 9-year-old daughter to see,” she says. Elgersma has also seen hashtags related to self-harm and cutting on the platform.
You can help your child block certain accounts and filter out offensive comments, keywords, and spam. However, Elgersma believed that the filters do not catch everything, emphasizing that hashtags change frequently and creative spelling allows users to maneuver around filters.
2. Have A Discussion About the App and Online Safety
Titania Jordan, chief parenting officer of parental-control app Bark, recommended that parents have an open, honest, and ongoing conversations about what’s happening in cyberspace. Jordan conversed with her tween son about it, ignoring inappropriate content and discussing why certain content should not be posted on TikTok. They also discussed how screenshots and screen recording apps and technology might become a meme that will haunt children, even if it appears harmless or impermanent.
Vice president of social strategy at Hot Paper Lantern Laura Bedrossian reminded parents to “have some understanding” of TikTok or any social media platform. She suggested that parents download the app and explore its features so they can answer any of their child’s queries. You can also ask about what your child is seeing on TikTok. Ensure that you have an open and honest conversation about their digital literacy and footprint.
3. Toggle Privacy Settings
Your TikTok account is set to “public” as soon as you sign up. Hence, it is recommended to change the settings to “private” to protect your child from abusers. Having an account set to private means only the followers your child approves can follow, comment, and like their content.
If your child chooses to have their account set to public, tell them to turn off “Allow others to find me” option and monitor the users who can comment, react to your child’s content, duet with them, send them messages, and view videos they liked. "Keep in mind that your child may open the app and change these settings at any time, which is why it's important for you to also view the 'Digital Wellbeing' section of the 'Privacy and settings' screen," Jordan recommended. It has a password-enabled screen time management system and an option to toggle restricted mode to limit inappropriate content.
Ensure that your child is using the correct date of birth. Some kids might fake their age to appear older, but it also exposes them to videos that are not child-friendly, said Jo O’Reilly, ProPrivacy’s digital privacy advocate.
TikTok may be a paradise for kids who want to express themselves in song or dance; however, parents should help their children understand the ramifications of posting certain content on the platform. This way, kids will be better at keeping themselves safe in cyberspace.