TikTok is a fast-growing social media app for uploading and sharing short videos of 60 seconds. It was formed by merging two popular apps, Douyin and Musical.ly (1).
After its merger in 2018, this social media platform has gathered more than 800 million active users. Presently, TikTok is available in 75 languages in 150 markets worldwide (2). Although TikTok is for people of all ages, its short video format particularly attracts youngsters, including children under 13 who may be exposed to mature content and privacy issues.
Read the post to learn about the risks of TikTok for kids and the safety measures to consider while using it.
Is TikTok Safe For Kids?
TikTok is not considered completely safe for children, but the app is appealing to them as it allows free expression in creative ways. They can create videos on any topic, ranging from sports and fitness to recipes and DIY tutorials. However, TikTok requires adult supervision and a private account for the following reasons (3):
- Children often encounter inappropriate content that portrays offensive language and actions even after filtering the content.
- TikTok has a commercial element that offers reward points if children invite their friends to download the app. These points can be redeemed for coupons from different brands.
- Strangers are always looking to connect with children on TikTok, and this may be a safety concern.
How Old Do You Have To Be To Use TikTok?
According to TikTok’s terms and conditions, the minimum age for using the app is 13 years. However, younger children can access a restricted version of the platform. Here are the different rules for users of different ages (3):
- Children under 13 years: They can only use the app section meant for younger children. This section has extra privacy and safety features that allow them to watch age-appropriate content, and it does not allow them to post, search, or comment on any video.
- Children between 13 and 15 years: Their accounts are private by default, and only their friends can engage with their videos. The feature that suggests their account to others is also turned off. Additionally, TikTok’s new update prevents notifications from being sent to users in this age group after 9 pm.
- Children above 16 years: They can use the live stream and direct messaging features. However, users aged 16–17 will not receive notifications after 10 pm. Only users above 18 can purchase, send, and receive virtual gifts.
What Are The Risks Of TikTok For Kids?
- Connecting with strangers: Social platforms allow users to connect with strangers. Although there is no harm in building new connections, TikTok predators connect with children with bad intentions.
To check this concern, TikTok has set safety guidelines that prevent strangers from sending inappropriate messages to children. Additionally, children under 16 years are not allowed to send or receive any private messages. Unfortunately, many children use TikTok with a false date of birth, causing their safety to be at risk.
- Collection of data: Earlier, TikTok had been blamed for illegally collecting the data of children less than 13 years old and fined $5 million by the US Federal Trade Commission (6). Therefore, children must avoid sharing and storing their personal information on TikTok.
- Dangerous challenges: All social platforms regularly come up with different challenges. In the past, TikTok had introduced some dangerous challenges, such as the Skull breaker Challenge and Blackout Challenge. Taking part in such challenges can be risky. Hence, children must avoid such challenges and avoid being influenced by peer pressure.
What Do Parents Need To Know About TikTok For Kids?
- Your child can open a TikTok account using their existing Google, Facebook, or email accounts, posing a greater risk of shared personal information.
- There are chances that inappropriate content (mature content) may crop up on your child’s profile even after applying the privacy settings. Exposure to such content can negatively affect children.
- Certain conversations on sensitive topics, such as politics, racism, and violence, can affect your child’s mental health.
- Friends and other people on the app might force your child to develop better content.
- Your child may become a target of cyberbullying as users may criticize their content, which might affect their self-confidence.
What Safety Measures Should Be Taken While Using TikTok?
Social media platforms offer a fun way to express creativity, so it is not wrong for your child to want to use them. However, it may be necessary to enable parental controls over the app’s usage to monitor your child’s activity closely from time to time. Some of the safety measures to follow are explained below (3) (8) (9):
- Set screen time limits: You can use TikTok’s Screen Time Management feature to limit your child’s watch time. Set the time limit to 40 minutes, after which the app will request a passcode to continue using it.
- Enable restricted mode: This feature limits mature content from appearing on your child’s screen, but it is not foolproof. Any inappropriate content that appears in this mode can be reported.
- Enable family pairing: For additional privacy, you could use the Family Pairing setting, where you create your TikTok account and link it with your child’s account. It will enable you to manage your child’s privacy settings.
- Monitor your child’s activity: To keep an eye on the content your child is viewing, you should share a TikTok account with your child. However, if your child is apprehensive about this idea, try talking about their favorite music, videos, and creators on TikTok. They may be more comfortable if you have an idea of what content they enjoy.
- Make the account private: Encourage your child to keep their account private to protect them from strangers and predators. However, even in private accounts, the profile photo, bio, and username are visible. Hence, ensure they share no sensitive information in this section.
- Control video settings: Even when your child’s account is public, they can change the settings of each video and decide who can watch them. Encourage your child to use this option to manage their viewers.
- Report and block users: If children face problems with anything related to the content or settings of the app, they can immediately report the issue. They can also easily block the users whose content they do not want to see.
TikTok is a great platform to have fun and associate with talented fellow creators; however, it comes with concerns like any other social media platform. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on your child’s TikTok activity and talk to them about online safety. Build trust so that your child can share any concerns with you. With your support, your child can have a safe and enjoyable TikTok journey.
- New Platform Old Problems: How TikTok Recreates the Regulatory Challenges That Came Before It.
- Banning apps like TikTok is a slippery slope. Here’s why.
- Parents\’ Ultimate Guide to TikTok.
- Tiktok app safety: What parents need to know.
- Parent’s Guide to TikTok.
- TikTok: Transforming Video-Sharing.
- Living in a Moment: Impact of TicTok on Influencing Younger Generation into Micro-Fame.
- TikTok Privacy Settings.
- The 101 on TikTok for parents – CASE NEWS (fiu.edu).