What parents need to know about TikTok

What parents need to know about TikTok

As part of our PSHE sessions in the school, we help educate students about a variety of personal, social, health and education issues, which includes staying safe online. We recognise that it is also useful to provide information parents especially when there are technological developments that may affect their children.

This is a simple ‘parents guide’ about TikTok provided by the National Online Safety organisation that will help you stay informed.

The first thing parents and children need to know is that there is an age restriction of 13+ to use TikTok and all social media platforms.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a global video community where users create, share and discover ‘funny and memorable moments’ via short video clips – typically about 15 seconds long. Videos can be ‘spiced up’ with special effect filters, stickers, music and sound clips. Currently one of the world’s most popular apps, TikTok was formerly known as Musical.ly, before it was rebranded by the Chinese company that acquired it in November 2017. If your child had previously had a Musical.ly account, all of their videos and personal settings will have automatically been moved to TikTok.

What parents need to know about TikTok

BEING INFLUENCED
More than one third of children aged 6-17 consider ‘social media stars’ to be among their top role models. There are millions of creators on TikTok, showcasing their ‘talents, moments and knowledge’, from singing to dancing to stunts and comedy skits, which receive thousands of likes and comments from around the world, quickly turning people into ‘stars’. There is the danger that children may develop unrealistic expectations of how they should look and behave on the app in order to become the next ‘star’. They may have feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem or become swayed by certain opinions.

INAPPROPRIATE SONG LYRICS
TikTok lets users lip-sync to their favourite songs and produce their own music videos. Some of the music choices contain swear words or sexual themes. So not only can children be exposed to potentially inappropriate content but they can broadcast themselves miming or singing these lyrics.

CONCERNING CONTENT
Some of the outfits and dance moves in videos can be overtly sexual and provocative. There have also been reports of some users sharing concerning content, such as videos that promote anorexia, porn, self-harm and violence.

DANGEROUS TRENDS & CHALLENGES
On TikTok, there are always ‘trending challenges’ and hashtags that users can copy of build upon, and sometimes, these challenges can pose risks to young people.

STRANGERS CAN FOLLOW YOUR CHILDREN
If your child’s profile is open, strangers can use the app to comment on your child’s videos. While this isn’t always sinister, it gives potential predators the ability to contact your child through the platform.

IN-APP PURCHASES
Of course, as with many apps, there is a paid element to TikTok. Users can buy virtual coins to be exchanged for virtual gifts – for example, if they like a specific video, your child can use coins to purchase emojis to show approval. These can be expensive and easily purchased – there is the option to buy 10,000 coins for £97.99 with a one-click buy button.

ANYONE CAN SEE YOUR CHILD’S CREATIONS
TikTok encourages users to ‘share their passion and creative expression through their videos’ and while something may seem fun at the time, videos can get in the wrong hands and cause embarrassment in the future. If posted publicly, anyone in the world can see your child’s homemade music video and potentially cause bullying within personal friendship groups or even online.

Top Tips for Parents

TALK ABOUT THE PITFALLS OF OVERSHARING
Encourage your kids to always think before they do, say, like or post anything online, explaining that their ‘digital footprint’ can shape their online reputation and the way that other people see them. Something they may find funny and entertaining now may impact them in the future. Talk about how to deal with peer pressure and how doing something they think will impress others could affect them.

HANDLING CRITICISM
While it’s fantastic to see your child being creative and expressive and bonding with people with similar interests, they need to be aware that not everyone will be supportive online. Comments can be negative or even cruel. Make sure they know how to comment respectfully and handle negative feedback. In the app’s Privacy and Safety setting, your child can decide who can react to their videos, who can comment, and who can send them private chat messages. We suggest using these settings so only their friends can interact with their posts.

SIGNING UP WITH THE CORRECT AGE
When signing up to TikTok, you are prompted to input your birth date. If your child inputs their age as ‘under 13’, the app will not allow them to sign up and will be locked for 24 hours. The app is intended for users aged 13+, so explain that the rating is there for a reason; to keep them protected from online dangers. It is actually possible to watch TikTok videos without even creating an account, so it’s important to check if your underage child has downloaded the app to their devices.

USE THE ‘DIGITAL WELLBEING’ SETTING
If you’re concerned about the amount of time your child is spending on TikTok, in the app’s setting, you can switch on a feature called Digital Wellbeing. This includes ‘Screen Management’ to limit the amount of time your child spends on the app.

SET THE ACCOUNT TO PRIVATE
The means that only people who you and your child approve can see their creations. To make an account private, tap the three dots at the top right of the screen to access settings. Click ‘Privacy and Safety’. Scroll down until you find ‘Private Account’ and turn this setting on.

REPORT INAPPROPRIATE CONTENT
If you or your child see something on TikTok that appears to be inappropriate, then can report content in different ways within the app. They can report an account, video, comment or chat conversation by simply tapping ‘Report’. In the app’s ‘Digital Wellbeing’ feature, there is also an ‘Enhanced Restricted Mode’, which limits the appearance of videos that may not be appropriate for all audiences.

AVOID IDENTIFIABLE OBJECTS
To ensure that there’s no way of anyone tracking your child’s location or identity, make it clear to them that they should never film a video in their school uniform or near a landmark that gives away where they live.

DISCUSS IN-APP PURCHASES
To lower the risk of your child making accidental in-app purchases, teach them exactly what in-app purchases are and the risks of making them without permission. Tell them that they are not essential to enjoy the app and that if they want to make a purchase, they should always ask you beforehand. In the app’s ‘Digital Wellbeing’ feature, there is the option to disable the function of purchasing coins and sending gifts.

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