The Truth About TikTok: Online Safety Tips for This Top App
TikTok’s popularity has surged since the pandemic, adding 11 million new users since March. Families have flocked to the app while home with their kids, yet many parents have been left to wonder how safe the platform really is. We spoke with Therapist, Sex and Tech Educator for tweens & parents, Jo Langford, to get the down-low of this app and learn more about this hot social media trend.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a video social media platform which allows you to upload and edit pre-recorded videos, or go live. Langford, who reviews apps on his podcast APPropriate, thinks that TikTok is an awesome creative outlet for kids who are artistically inclined, or who long to perform and edit videos and photos. In family pairing mode, you can control what gets posted and as your child shows responsibility, you can start giving them more freedom.
Langford says, “As a whole, TikTok is a great way for kids to connect with friends and have fun. They typically share goofy videos with each other and it’s been a fun thing for kids to do during quarantine when they have been stuck at home.”
The Cons of TikTok
While scrolling through TikTok and making videos can be fun for adults and children, there are a few cons to this app. The privacy, or lack thereof, around location tracking are a concern, as TikTok can see your latitude and longitude of where the video is being made. Efforts are being made to improve that within the app, but it’s not fully implemented yet. Langford also adds that, “Kids can also get access to music that is not age-appropriate and watching them sing adult lyrics that may contain profanity can be upsetting to parents.”
“External validation is also a common theme in TikTok, given that abilities and appearances are praised on the platform. The compliments kids receive can make them vulnerable to predators. Those compliments light their brains up and can feel really good, especially in middle school.”
The FBI states that any platform that is targeted at children can have at least one active predator on the app at any given moment, so it’s important for parents to take precautions. Here are some tips to keep your kids safe on TikTok.
6 Tips to Keep Kids Safe on TikTok
- Adjust your child’s privacy settings. For kids under 16, we recommend setting their account to private. With a private account, only users you approve can follow you and view your videos. Let them interact with only people they know in real life (and celebrities you approve of).
- Manage comments. Tell your kids never to read the comments or disable them entirely. This is one way to manage that external validation piece and to protect them from online bullying and predators.
- Set time limits. While many are relaxing time limits during quarantine, boundaries are good to keep a healthy balance.
- Communicate. Communication is so important, keep talking to your kids so they know they can come to you if they have a problem.
- Check followers. Keep an eye on who is following your kids if you let them go on the app without you.
- Scroll together. Predators have been known to manipulate their content so it lands on kids’ For You page. Consider keeping the app on your phone instead and enjoy videos together as a family.
Langford adds his own experience of how he talked to his teens about TikTok and social media:
“We talked about objectification, both by others and of themselves. We talked about self esteem. We talked about criticism that’s healthy versus unhealthy. We talked about haters, trolls and bullies. We talked about sexism. We talked about rape culture. If you don’t want to talk about that stuff with your kid yet, that is fine. Zero judgment. Just don’t let them on social media yet. If you ARE going to let them on social media, then we have to talk about this stuff.”
While there are legitimate privacy concerns associated with the platform and while there is always a risk of encountering predators online, there are ways to help keep your kids safe while they enjoy the fun of creating content with their friends.
Follow these tips and see how much safer your kids’ experiences can be.