What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social app launched by Chinese company ByteDance in 2016. Its main function is for users to create and share short creative videos, often edited with added special effects, of them lip synching, dancing or acting to a range a songs and sound bites. According to CNN, it has beaten rivals Snapchat and Twitter in downloads with 800 million. The app is readily available to anyone above the age of 13, taking the young market by storm.

Smiling teenage girls using gadgets

So why should parents be informed about it?

Despite the quirky and humorous nature of the app, Redoaks found causes for concern on the types of content young people were viewing, from inappropriate language and imagery to dangerous viral challenges, and not only that, but it is possible for anyone of TikTok’s global users to watch your own child’s creations.

Vox.com reported research from South China Morning Post that some children were unknowingly posting information and videos about themselves that were attracting an unintended audience; resulting in them receiving “creepy” messages from adults posing as teenagers.

Navigating through the app’s privacy setting finds that it’s possible for users to set their account to private – which helps prevent such contact (despite the user’s basic info, such as username, bio and profile photo, still being visible) but with this not being the default option – how many children, or their parents, will know to do this without being briefed about the dangers of the seemingly innocent app first?

What are ways I can keep my child safe online?

  • Always pay attention to the recommended age for an app your child is using, it’s there for a reason.
  • Speaking to them about the value and importance of privacy e.g. to not talk to strangers online (even if they appear genuine), to never give away personal information and to always regularly review the privacy settings of an app.
  • Having them understand the implications that posting content online can bring.
  • For your child to know they can always speak to you should they see anything online that concerns or upsets them – from cyber bullying to inappropriate content.
  • Be aware of the risks surrounding the apps and websites they use, perhaps research before hand or even try them yourself first.
  • Reviewing linked credit cards to accounts to prevent accidental in-app purchases, and for them to understand the consequences for using such a feature.
A mother looks on from the kitchen as three pre-teen boys use a smartphone in the living room.  She is out of focus but it is clear to see her sense of discomfort with what they are doing on the internet.

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