How to Keep Your Kid’s Safe on the TikTok App

There are many different apps out there that are marketed towards children. One of these apps is the TikTok app.

This social network app comes from the developers of Music.ly. Music.ly officially disappeared from the internet in 2018, with TikTok taking its place. This was a consequence of a rebranding strategy of the chinese company ByteDance that had acquired the app back in 2017. In TikTok, your children can watch musical clips made by other people or create short clips themselves which they can then add effects to.

However, like with many apps that are available for children, there is the risk that they are exposed to inappropriate or dangerous content. Let’s take a look at TikTok and how to keep your kids safe on it.

What is the TikTok App?

The TikTok app is a social media networking app that allows your children to make short clips that are up to 60 seconds long. Once they’ve filmed them and added personal special effects, they can share them with their family, friends or anyone on the internet.

Children can create anything on the app from lip-syncing videos to funny skits. Just like Music.ly before it, the TikTok app is targeted at children under 16, as this is their biggest audience.

How Does TikTok Work?

Firstly, your child has to be a minimum of 13 to sign up to the app. They are also free to download the app and see videos that other users have uploaded, even before they’ve created their own account. It’s only when they create an account for themselves that they can start creating their own content.

Your child can choose to use their Facebook, email address or any other social media platform to sign up for an account on TikTok. They will then be required to type in their birth date, and if they’re younger than 13, TikTok will stop them from creating an account. This is the only age verification process that TikTok has in place. This means that there are many 13- children that have this app.

Once they have created an account, they’ll see a feed just like on Instagram or Facebook. This feed will show them what their family and friends are creating, as well as other content that they may be interested in based on recommendations.

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Upload Photos or Videos

To create a Tiktok video, the first step is to upload photos or videos.

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Edit the Videos

Once the videos or photos are uploaded, the next step is to edit the videos.  There are various ways to edit:

  • Special Effects
  • Covers
  • Filters
  • Stickers
  • Trim
  • Sound

By editing the videos with background music, effects, stickers and more, kids can showcase their creativity by personalizing each video.

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Post

The final step is to post the video to TikTok.  Here, kids can choose their title, hashtags, and @ mentions.  It’s important for children to understand the visibility settings, as they can make videos Public, Friends, or Private.   They can also select if they want comments or reactions on their posts.

Voila – now kids have created and shared their own custom TikTok videos.

Why Do Adolescents Like TikTok?

Children and teenagers seem to like using TikTok because it’s a way of expressing themselves creatively while still staying in touch with their friends. Sharing their content with others helps them feel part of a community.

Potential Risks of Using TikTok

Cyberbullying is a serious issue that can affect anyone at any time. With a seemingly limitless range of ways for children to stay connected online these days, there’s the risk that they will be exposed to cyberbullying almost anywhere. This includes TikTok.

Parents have raised their concerns about specific hashtags that are being used on content and what they’re suggesting as a result. Some hashtags are encouraging others to self-harm, which is a more serious example of cyberbullying.

Some parents have also raised concerns about profanity and inappropriate language being used in the content that their children see, which is much less suitable for younger children.

Luckily, TikTok’s terms and conditions prevent this type of behavior, so it’s vital that if you see this, you report it so that it can be taken down and the user blocked.

Another issue with children having access to interactive apps like TikTok is having contact with strangers. Predators have many different ways that they attempt to make contact with their victims, and stranger danger is a serious reality on an app like TikTok.

What Parents Need to Look Out For

While children aren’t able to post or create any content when they initially download the app, they are able to see other people’s content before they’ve even signed up for an account. This means that there’s nothing in the way of a filter to censor what may be inappropriate for your child.

TikTok does ask a new user for their birth date, which is a good way to prevent anyone younger than 13 from accessing the app. However, it wouldn’t be impossible for your child to lie about their age. And of course younger users usually do (lie).

Once an account is created, a default setting means that all accounts are public. This means that anyone on the TikTok app can look at your child’s content, and vice versa. However, there is a feature that only allows approved followers to message them directly.

Because users can like, comment and follow a new user without needing permission, it means that there is the risk that strangers can easily reach out to your child directly.

Because there is the incentive to engage in the community to get more of a following, your child may be willing to take risks, including connecting with strangers. It’s essential to have a conversation with them about what they’re sharing and who they’re sharing it with.

If you want to delete your child’s account completely, you have to request a code that the app will send you through your smartphone. This makes it complicated, especially if you’re trying to remove your child and their content from it quickly.

Are There Any Safety Features?

Like other social media apps, TikTok does have a ‘wellbeing’ setting that alerts users when they have been using the app for more than two hours.

Once your child has set up an account, you have the option of turning their account to private. This means that only they can see their own videos, or you may choose that friends only can see the content created. While this is a good feature to have, it may restrict your child’s enjoyment of the app too much. Not many accounts stay private long as being part of the community is part of the enjoyment of this app.

How to Keep Your Kid’s Safe on the TikTok App

Let’s take a look at six ways to keep your kids safe on the TikTok app:

  1. Talk to Your Children About Cyberbullying

Because other users can freely leave comments on your child’s content, this leaves them vulnerable to receiving negative or hurtful messages. Educating them on what to do if they have been cyberbullied or if they feel someone else is being cyberbullied will help keep them safe when using the app.

     2. Set Their TikTok Account to Private

Go to the profile page on your child’s TikTok account. Click on the three dots that are located in the top right hand corner. From here, you can select ‘privacy and settings’. Select the ‘privacy and safety’ option and switch their account to ‘private’.

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     3. Make Them Aware of What They Share

Talk to your children about what they’re posting and help them think a little more carefully before sharing their content on the app with other users. Good communication with your children is essential to protect them from the internet dangers.

     4.  Become Familiar with TikTok’s Community Guidelines

You and your child can read through TikTok’s community guidelines together to get a better understanding of what can and cannot be created and shared on the app.

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     5.  Keep a Lookout For Explicit Material and Inappropriate Content

Some of the songs that are featured and shared on TikTok may include explicit language and therefore aren’t appropriate for your child to listen to. For this reason it’s good to take a look at the app together with your child before they begin to use it by themselves. You can report both content or an account that goes against the Community Guidelines, by clicking in the Report button of the app and following the instructions provided.

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     6.  Make the Most of Digital Wellbeing Settings

On the profile page of your child’s account, click on the three dots located in the top right hand corner again. From the options that come up select ‘digital wellbeing’. Select ‘turn on’ and select the option of creating a password. You can also turn on ‘screen time management’.

In the same way, you can also select ‘restricted mode’ to censor any inappropriate content that may pop up on the app.

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When monitoring your children’s app usage, it’s important to keep these types of restrictions in place. Recently, light was shed on how much access TikTok has to the personal information of their users.

With this in mind, keeping your children safe on an app like TikTok means keeping their personal information protected, too. It’s important that they understand the need for actions like switching their profile to private, otherwise they could be vulnerable to scams and even predators.

Final Thoughts

When using an app like TikTok, it’s important to sit down with your children and talk to them about being safe on the internet. Encouraging your children to think before they say or share anything on an app can help them realize how valuable their safety is as well as their online reputation.

To keep children safe, parents can opt for a device monitoring system. This may be a good idea if your children are young or if you see changes in behavior. Webwatcher is a phone/device monitoring system that works as an additional filter to ensure that your children are safe when using apps like TikTok.

While your child might just see it as a bit of innocent fun, there are always risks involved when coming into contact with strangers online. The more they know about what’s out there, the better they can protect themselves when using apps like this.

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