If your kids have an internet connection, they are likely using TikTok. It's a free, engaging, short-form video-sharing app geared toward teenagers that allows users to express themselves with filters, music and other features. Users can watch and record videos of themselves lip-syncing to music as well as create short, shareable videos so they can interact with friends through likes, comments, songs and livestream.
With 500 million active users worldwide, it's no surprise that 41 percent of TikTok users are between 16 and 24 years old. That means your middle and high school-aged children are probably on it.
We know it's hard for parents to keep up with the latest apps and social media platforms, but it is imperative for you to pay attention to this one. Several recent viral pranks have caused concern that threaten the life and safety of those who use it, explicit content is freely available on the platform and the app has been in trouble for illegally collecting data on children under the age of 13.
- The "Cha-Cha Slide Challenge" encourages drivers to swerve across the road in tune to DJ Casper's song, causing motor vehicle accidents as motorists "slide to the left" or "slide to the right" when the song calls for it.
- The "Skull-Breaker Challenge" involves two people tricking another person into jumping into the air and kicking their feet out from under them so they fall.
- The Penny/Outlet Challenge involves a partially plugged in phone charger and dropping a penny between the outlet and charger to cause sparks and smoke.
Children can view content on the app without even creating an account (they just cannot upload videos or comment on anything). This means they can be exposed to explicit content used in videos including profanity, violence and mature/adult themes.
What Can Parents Do?
- Talk with Your Child - The best thing a parent can do regarding TikTok is have an open dialogue with your child about the app. Is your child using it? What types of videos are they watching? What are they posting? Parents need to engage children in conversations about the types of videos they are seeing and posting to decide if the app and the available content is appropriate for your child and family. Consider whether you even want your child on this app at all.
- Educate about internet safety and digital citizenship - Because TikTok is a platform that encourages interaction and conversation, users can comment on videos, leaving children open to potential cyber-bullying. Children need to be educated on appropriate use of the internet and what is acceptable online behavior.
- Understand Account and Privacy Settings - Common Sense Media suggests a minimum age of 16 to use the app because of privacy concerns and mature content, but the app will allow users under the age of 13 with restricted use. Make sure you know how your child's account is setup. Accounts are public by default, which means anyone can see your child's content or comment and connect with them. You can set the account to private and even limit the amount of time your child can spend on the app as well as restrict the type of content they can view.
Click here for more internet safety tips from National Online Safety.