You have probably heard of TikTok and if you have a teenager in the family then you probably know more about it than I do! However, for parents with preteens, primary students, or those wanting to learn more about this popular social media platform, then please read on.
In August 2018, a Chinese company bought ByteDance and the app formerly known as Musical.ly and merged them into TikTok, resulting in a world-wide mega-site almost overnight. TikTok is based on everyone having their 15 seconds of fame as it restricts video uploads to 15 seconds.
More than any other age group and gender, TikTok is hugely popular with female teens and tweens (even though you must be at least 13 years of age to sign up). Unfortunately, TikTok’s target audience is widely known and that has attracted another very undesirable audience which you can learn more about from an episode run on A Current Affair earlier this year.
Like all social media sites, there are things you can do to protect your children from the darker and dangerous side of TikTok.
Here are eight things you should do now:
1. Talk to your teenagers about TikTok and ask them questions to find out what they know and how they are using it. Don’t interrogate them about it but show interest and keep communication open. Ask them about the kinds of messages they are receiving and if there have ever been any from strangers or messages that have concerned them. TikTok is, in many ways, just another social media site and can be used responsibly.
2. Ensure that your teen’s account is private. The default setting when you register an account is public, so this is an important step not to miss.
3. Ensure your teen has opted out of personalised data. This prevents TikTok from officially collecting your data (although there is evidence that they may do it anyway).
4. Change all safety settings to “Friends”. This limits who can comment and interact with your teen.
5. Change the “allow others to find me” toggle as this will prevent your child showing up in unsolicited and unwelcome searches.
6. Enable restricted mode as this will help block ‘mature content’. Remember that teens are the main users and creators of content for TikTok so there will be images and language that are inappropriate by anyone’s standards.
7. Enable ‘Family Safety Mode. This new feature was only rolled out in February and allows parents to limit or turn off direct messages and determines daily time limits! If only all the social media sites had this tool, more homework would get done!
8. Keep revisiting point 1. Don’t think you can ‘set and forget’ when it comes to your child’s relationship with social media. Use it as a tool to keep communications open.
Just to keep it interesting, The US Department of Defense has warned their personnel not to use TikTok due to security concerns. You can make whatever you like about that piece of information! However, rather than wonder about conspiracy theories, if you take on board nothing more than point 1 (and point 8), then you are winning as a parent and caregiver!
Mike Curtis, Principal