TikTok: A Parent’s Guide

Jill Holtz

January 19, 2020

tik tok

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Is your tween or teen using the TikTok app? You might have heard or seen them use Musical.ly in the past, but did you know that that app was absorbed and merged into TikTok? I’ve been looking into the updated TikTok to find out more, and here’s what parents need to know about TikTok.

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If your tween or teen uses TikTok, read on to familiarise yourself with the app and things you should know as a parent.

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What is TikTok?

TikTok is a free social media app available on iOS or Android, designed for creating and sharing short videos. TikTok merged with Musical.ly in 2018 to create a larger community, with existing accounts and data consolidated into one app, keeping the title TikTok.

With more than 100 million users, TikTok is very popular. Similar to YouTube, you can access an interactive world of videos that lets you connect with friends, follow people, and interact through likes, comments, and even do duets with other accounts on TikTok.

According to the TikTok app: “Use music and effects to make your own awesome videos by capturing funny and memorable moments to share with the world. Take your videos to the next level with special effects filters, fun stickers, music, and more. Life’s moving fast, so make every second count and show the world what you got!”

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How Does It Work?

creating an account on tiktok

When you have downloaded the app, you can either use an email or social media sign in to set up an account. If using email, you will be asked for date of birth and phone number, then a 4-digit code will be sent to your account to verify it.

Once you get in you can:

  • upload your own video and add stickers, filters, add music, etc
  • browse the millions of videos on there
  • you can follow people
  • search keywords or hashtags
  • watch videos selected for you – there’s a personalised video feed designed for you based on what you watch, like, and share
  • receive and send direct messages.

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What Do Parents Need to Be Aware Of?

There are some things parents need to be aware of about TikTok.

Firstly it is rated 12+ on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store recommends Parental Guidance. Technically, 13 is the minimum age according to TikTok’s terms and conditions. There is a date of birth input when signing up (not that that would stop a tween or teen), but it doesn’t seem to make any difference what date of birth you put in, so they are not screening it by age.

Secondly, when you download the app you can see all the content without creating an account – although you cannot post, like or share anything until you have set up an account. So you could potentially see things that are not appropriate even before you have set anything up.

TikTok is an app that is open to the world, so there’s no restrictions on content posted on the app. Your tween could see content that is not age appropriate.

This is not an app for younger kids because there is no restriction to inappropriate content (and, don’t forget, many songs nowadays have explicit language in them as well).

Reactions to posted videos include a heart symbol, but there is also a comment section which could open the person up to negative comments.

Videos can be shared onto various other apps like phone messages, Instagram, Snapchat and Whatsapp. So this means anything posted on TikTok could be shared elsewhere.

To delete an account you have to request a code from the app using a phone number.

Privacy and Digital Wellbeing on TikTok

When you create an account on TikTok it is public by default, but there are privacy settings available on the app that allow you to set your account to private so that other users cannot view your uploaded content.

You can also decide if you allow others to find you. Other options under the Privacy Settings allow you to select who can post comments, duet, react, send messages, view videos you liked, filter comments, allow downloads, and there is a Block list function too.

tiktok privacy settingsThere is the risk that someone who is a stranger to your child could directly contact them on the app, but the privacy settings for the messenger are either OFF or FRIENDS, which means a random person cannot start messaging a user unless they are mutually following each other on the platform. It’s important to remind your child that they should only follow people they know in real life.

One good thing about the TikTok app is its “Digital Wellbeing” setting. It limits users to a two-hour limit on the app per day once it is enabled, and you would then need a pass code to continue using the app past the time limit.

tiktok digital wellbeing

You may decide not to allow your tween or teen to use the TikTok app, but if you do then here are some tips.

Tips for Parents if Your Tween or Teen is using TikTok

#1. Try it yourself

Try it yourself and get your tween or teen to show you the basics. This is one of the best ways of learning and understanding what it’s about.

#2. Have a conversation again about internet safety

Remind your tween or teen that they should tell you if they see anything strange or receive any adverse messages. And that they should never divulge any personal information to a stranger.

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#3. Talk about connecting with strangers online

Have a frank discussion about if there is any merit to talking to strangers online? Should you? What are the risks?

#4. Set time limits

While the digital wellbeing aspect is a welcome addition, it isn’t definitive and time limits are important.

#5. Remain vigilant

Even though you have talked to your child about being safe, it’s important to remain vigilant and check in regularly with your child. Keep the conversation going and stay interested and informed.

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Does your tween or teen use TikTok? What are your thoughts on it? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

TikTok: A Parent's Guide - Mykidstime

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