With so many social media services available today it can be hard to keep track of what your children are doing online. When you are not sure what they are doing it is perfectly normal to worry about their safety and privacy online. However, if you have children in their early- to mid-teens who have been spending a lot of time on social media, the site it is most likely they have ended up using the most will be TikTok.
TikTok is a short-form video sharing site, on which users over the age of thirteen can share videos of themselves singing, making short-form comedy, or talking about their lives. As a parent there are a few things it is essential to know.
If your child is interested in TikTok a good first step is to sit down with them and look at privacy settings. As with any other site or service online, you should always be cautious, and should ask, is TikTok safe for kids? If any children under thirteen want to get it because it is talked about a lot by their peers or they know older children who use it, be firm that they cannot use it before their thirteenth birthdays.
If you have device-based parental controls in place on their devices these controls will ensure that your children cannot download age-inappropriate apps, and these controls are well worth getting if you choose to give your children devices before their teenage years. Device-based controls are a good idea to consider in general for children’s devices, whether on Android or Apple.
Public and private accounts
If your child is old enough to use TikTok and is interested in downloading the app, it is worth discussing whether they want a public or a private account. On public accounts videos can be shared to the whole world, while private accounts will only share videos to friends, they have specifically let follow them. Whether their account is public or private, they can only be messaged on TikTok by subscribers whose requests they have accepted.
Knowing this the next step is clear: talk to your children about the importance of never adding people online who they do not personally know. The “stranger danger” conversation is made trickier by the new realities of a world where so much of our lives are on the internet, but the fundamentals remain the same. Also talk about the importance of being aware of hacked accounts. On any social media platform, it is possible for accounts to be hacked. Tell them that if they get a request from a person who they believe they have already added they should double check the list of friends they already have to ensure it is not a duplicate account.
For younger teenagers, private accounts are often a good idea to ensure safety while they build their awareness of the world around them. The service’s anti-bullying and blocking features add a level of security to their online experience which can help keep them safe online, but talking to them about the potential dangers is the best way to keep them safe.