Despite only launching in 2018, TikTok has enjoyed a dramatic rise to become one of the most popular social media apps on the planet.
Young people, in particular, love its short-form video focus, and it is now one of Generation Z’s favourite tools of expression. aSoo buy 1 million youtube views on the website top4smm.com
There’s a good chance your child is either using it already or asking to be allowed on it – but what exactly is it, and are there any risks you should be aware of?
Here’s everything parents and carers need to know about TikTok.
What is TikTok?
TikTok was born out of a merger between two already popular apps, Douyin and Musical.ly. It’s based around many of the same features found on those platforms and is primarily a social media app where users can both create and watch short video snippets, often accompanied by music.
Over the two years since its launch, the app has amassed more than 800 million active users and has consistently stayed at the top of both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store charts.
What sort of content is on TikTok?
You can find videos relating to almost all interests on TikTok, from DIY tricks and make-up tutorials to gaming and sports. People are allowed to let their imagination run wild on TikTok, as there isn’t really a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ type of content. Your child might use TikTok to pick up new skills, learn how to play an instrument or even connect with people they share an interest with.
The videos are often playful and take maximum advantage of the editing tools to make the 15 seconds of video as memorable as possible. Although most of the content you will find is upbeat, funny and joyful, people also use the platform to respond to current events such as the #BlackLivesMatter campaign and the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to controversy in the past, with TikTok having been accused of censoring politically-charged content which was especially critical of the Chinese government.
But TikTok has a set of community guidelines all content must adhere to and does not permit, for example, violent, racist, extremist or sexually explicit content on the platform.
How does it work?
Users don’t need an account to watch videos on TikTok but if they want to like, comment, customise their feed or create their own video content, they’ll be prompted to sign up for a free account.
Like most social media platforms, TikTok requires its users to be at least 13 years old, although there’s no robust age-verification in place. When logging in for the first time, the user will be asked to log in using either their email, their Google account, or by linking TikTok to one of their other social media accounts, for instance Facebook or Twitter.
After entering their date of birth and selecting which topics they’re interested in – such as sports, pop culture, music or gaming – the user will be dropped straight into the feed.
In contrast to most of its competitors, TikTok doesn’t require the user to add any information to their profile: they’re issued with a user number, but whether they add a name, profile picture or any other personal information is their choice.
Users are given complete creative control of their content. Putting together a video is very easy and there’s a range of tools available to spruce up the content, such as filters, effects, text and stickers.
Depending on how they’ve adjusted their settings, users can share their content with their follower base and/or the larger TikTok community – and even reshare their content on other platforms such as Instagram or YouTube.
Many high-profile TikTokers – such as the dancer Addison Rae and magician Magic Singh – have achieved stardom by simultaneously building their audiences across platforms.
Are there any risks?
Data collection: TikTok has previously come under fire for illegally collecting the data of children under 13, which resulted in a record-breaking fine from the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of £4.2m and harsh criticism from the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Fortunately, TikTok doesn’t require users to give much personal information to join the app anymore, but it’s a good idea to minimise the amount of data your child stores on the app and turn off personalised ads in the settings.
Contact with strangers: Although connecting with new people on social media is not harmful in and of itself, TikTok has previously been in the news for failing to remove sexual messages sent to teenagers. The platform’s guidelines include a section devoted to ‘Minor safety’, which states “We are deeply committed to child safety and have zero tolerance for predatory or grooming behavior toward minors.” To further address concerns, TikTok introduced a feature that prevents under-16s from both sending and receiving private messages – but nothing stops young users from faking their age. Be sure to adjust the app’s settings (more advice below) and let your child know that they can come to you if they’ve had a bad experience which has involved being contacted by a stranger.
Risky challenges: The social media platform is famous for spawning viral challenges which are a big draw for many users. But TikTok has received a lot of flak for allowing potentially dangerous challenges – such as the Skullbreaker Challenge and the Outlet Challenge – to reach popularity on its platform. Make sure that your child knows not to try risky activities they see on TikTok. You can find further information on viral trends in this Parent Info article.
Does TikTok have any parental controls?
TikTok does offer its users a range of settings to customise their experience and make it safer for young people. And although it’s important to bear in mind that settings and parental controls don’t eliminate risk, they can be a good first step.