TikTok: What All Parents Need to Know About This Social Media App 

We live in an age of rapid technology, with a new app, social media platform, or another way to connect emerging constantly. With the blur of Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Oovoo, Vine, YouTube, VSCO, Pinterest, and more, it’s difficult to stay up to date as a parent. You don’t want to limit your children entirely and take away their social media accounts, but you also want to make sure that they are safe. If you have tweens and teens, you’ve likely heard of the TikTok craze. We’ve explored and observed TikTok to keep you informed and provide you with tips for monitoring your kids’ TikTok usage! 

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media platform that allows users to create and share short-form music videos. You must be 13 years old and up to create an account. When you sign up, the first thing you do is enter your birthday, and if TikTok sees that you are under 13, the app will not allow you to create an account. You can choose from thousands of songs to create a video, along with filters, effects and photos. However, many kids download TikTok to watch popular videos more so than create their own. The home page will show a feed of popular videos for you, based on what you’ve watched before, and videos from your followers. The discover page allows you to search videos and find new ones by trending hashtags. Users can like, comment and share videos. 

Age Restriction

There are a number of issues that arise from TikTok that parents should be aware of. First, for kids who are under age 13, they figure it out pretty quickly that all they need to do to create an account is choose an earlier birth year. Even if you enter in an age that is under 13 at first, but then enter an age that is over 13, TikTok will still let you create an account (very frustrating, we know!). The best way to prevent your pre-teen from downloading TikTok is to go into their iPhone or iPad and click on the following (for IOS 12): Settings, Screen Time and then Content & Privacy Restrictions. Here, you can restrict certain apps from being purchased. Since TikTok is set for ages 13 and older, you can simply restrict your kids from purchasing apps that are for ages 13 and older. 

The Time-Consuming Nature of TikTok

Like all social media platforms, TikTok is designed to be a time-consuming and distracting app that pulls you in for hours as you watch video after video. TikTok can definitely be a distraction from homework, extracurriculars and even social time with friends. Thankfully, Tik Tok has a system in place to prevent kids from getting stuck in the app for long periods of time. Under your TikTok profile, click on the three dots in the upper right corner, which is Privacy and Settings. Select Digital Wellbeing and Screen Time Management. Then set a screen time limit. Note that if your kids know their TikTok passcode, they can enter it after the time limit is up to keep using TikTok, so keep the passcode hidden if you want to stick to the time limit.

Exposure to Explicit or Inappropriate Songs and Videos

While kids can make their account private so that only their friends can watch their videos and send them messages, there’s not a whole lot of control over what other people post. On the Home and Discover pages, there are hundreds of thousands of public videos that can feature inappropriate ideas, suggestions, or images. A great way to limit these types of videos from your kid’s feed is to go back under Digital Wellbeing and select Restricted Mode. This setting does its best to limit the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Note that this feature turns off after 30 days, so you will have to go back in afterwards and set it up again. A form of exposure that doesn’t have a direct solution is the song list. Many songs are explicit, and there’s no way to filter these out.

Self Image Worries

TikTok wouldn’t be a social media platform if it didn’t have the iconic effects and filters that kids love to experiment with. However, one feature to watch out for in particular is the Beauty tool. When your kids create videos, they can turn Beauty on, which essentially airbrushes their face to make them more “beautiful.” The implications of this tool are certainly not a message that you want your kids to pick up, especially for young girls. Again, there isn’t any way to prevent exposure to features such as these, especially if your kids are also using Instagram and Snapchat. But monitoring screen time surely helps, and it’s important to have conversations about self and body image with your kids. 

Duets and Reactions

Another important feature in Tok Tok is Duets, in which two videos get placed side by side. If your Duet settings are public, then anyone can Duet with you, as in put their video beside yours so that other users watch the two simultaneously. To change this feature, go to Privacy and Safety and click on “Who can Duet with you” to switch it from everyone to friends, or turn it off altogether. Duets can be fun, but they are also a source of bullying, as kids make fun of others by placing a video next to their video that mocks the corresponding one. Reactions allow users to record their reaction to a video as they are watching it, and then share that reaction with others. This is another feature that feeds into bullying, but you can easily change the settings to restrict who can react to your videos to either friends or nobody. 

Profile Information

One last thing to keep in mind about TikTok is the information that your kids share in their profile. On TikTok, kids can choose a profile photo, profile video, username, write a bio, and link their Instagram or Youtube. If this is your kid’s first exposure to social media, you’ll probably want to help them through creating their profile or look it over after they are done. Make sure that they do not reveal any private information in their bio, such as their address, school, or even last name. This could be a fun activity that you and your kid do together, while also a great way to monitor what your little one is sharing on social media. 

Not only are more social media platforms quickly arising, but kids are starting to use social media at a younger age than ever before. We understand that this is certainly a fear among parents of tweens and teens (or even younger kids). In order to best address these fears, get to know the social media apps that your kids are using inside and out! TikTok is a fairly new app, but its popularity is skyrocketing among kids. Despite TikTok’s parental concerns, it really is a fun and unique app to get creative and share a few laughs with friends.