What Families Need to Know about TikTok

Parven Kaur
October 9, 2018

TikTok is a free social media app designed for creating and sharing short music videos. It replaces the Musical.ly app that shut down in August 2018 having all of its 100 million users transferred to TikTok.

What is TikTok?

Developed in China, TikTok is used for creating, sharing and discovering music videos. It is like Karaoke for the digital age.

Users can watch videos of others or even create their own short video clips. Young people tend to use this app to record videos of themselves lip-synching to the latest music.

The videos are recorded in 15-second clips and users can add special effects before sharing them on this platform. TikTok also enables live streaming of videos via Live.Me and interaction with the audience via a chat function.

Lip-syncing and dancing videos are the most popular genres on the platform. Just like Youtube, TikTok is an interactive app where you can connect with friends, comment on videos and follow other people on the platform.

Some kids have gained popularity and fame using this app. For instance, Jacob Sartorious became an Internet sensation from his lip-synching videos.

Is TikTok appropriate for children?

  • When signing up on TikTok, user profiles are made ‘public’ by default. This means anyone can view videos that your children upload, send direct messages to them and access their location information.
  • Popular TikTok uploads emphasize today’s top music which means that some of the lyrics may contain swearing and sexual content that is not appropriate for children.
  • Some of the music videos have mature content that feature revealing outfits and inappropriate dance moves.
  • A report by ABC news found that the messaging feature in the app could enable strangers to send direct messages to children. A father of a 7-year-old girl warned that a predator contacted his daughter through this app.

Age restriction on TikTok app:

TikTok requires users to be at least 13 years old to access its platform. Under the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Ireland has now set the Digital Age of Consent to 16 years old. Anyone under the age of 16 years old cannot access this platform.

Common Sense Media has recommended that this app is appropriate for those aged at least 16 years old and above due to its mature content and information settings.

Why I like TikTok:

  • The videos are very short, 15 seconds in length. It encourages users to be creative with the content they share.
  • It is a mix of singing and acting which can be a lot of fun. Many parents have used TikTok to connect with their kids using technology by lip-synching together.
  • It encourages users to be silly and fun and not to take everything online too seriously.
  • The comment box does remind users to “say something nice”.

Protecting children on TikTok:

  • Ensure that settings are set to ‘private’ so only people whom you and your child know can contact and view their videos.
  • Turn off the location service in the app.
  • If your tween wants to use this app, ensure that an adult is supervising the usage. Use music videos that you are familiar with or you would normally listen to anyway.
  • Monitor your child’s account and ensure that they are following accounts that you think are appropriate for their age group.
  • Let your child know that you as a parent have TikTok and will be keeping an eye on their account.

Remember that any social media platform can be a source of cyberbullying and a ground for sexual predators. TikTok, like any other app, can present such dangers to your child. Always monitor their account and speak to them regularly about what they do or read online.

Written by

Parven Kaur

Parven is the founder of Kids N Clicks; a web resource that help parents and children thrive in a digital world.

After graduating with an MSc in corporate governance from the London School of Economics and Political Science, she worked for Ernst and Young before moving into digital media consultancy.

She has extensive experience in the digital / social media arena and has been a consultant for various charitable organisations across Scotland. She has also been an invited speaker at digital media events. Her work has been recognised as a ‘Digital Pioneer’ by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. More recently, following her foray into digital parenting, she was recognised by the Parenting 2.0 organisation for improving digital literacy.

Parven lives with her family in Edinburgh and actively contributes digital parenting news and tips on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest as well as on her Kids N Clicks website and blog. She spends the rest of her time with her little toddler, enjoying mini-super short walks in the Scottish countryside.