The star of lockdown: TikTok
During this time of social isolation, our need to fill our days with activity has led to increased reliance on our electronic devices. People are longing to stay in contact with the outside world to maintain a sense of normality and belonging in this unexpected time of social isolation. Not surprisingly, with users aiming to “go viral”, TikTok is the latest social media app soaring to the top of the charts.
Not unlike other social media applications, a platform with this kind of rise in sudden popularity comes with its own unique set of risks. Here is the SGS scoop on the app all of your kids are begging to download.
Let's start with the basics… What exactly is TikTok?
This Chinese owned app is best known as a video-sharing social networking application, where users can create, edit, and propel their work for the public to see. Previously known as Musical.ly, TikTok is a video-sharing social network service that was rebranded to obtain the attention of young adults and teens. It was created for lip sync videos, comedy and talent videos. It has historically been most prominent among middle and high school students, which gives predators and pedophiles an advantage over other platforms popular among older adults and parents.
With social distancing, however, curiosity has ensued among families and people of all ages are getting involved.
With a variety of videos ranging from cute animals and music videos to angry grandma, TikTok truly has it all. But that variety comes at a cost. It may be highly entertaining from an initial standpoint, but you’ll find over frequent usage, there’s a lot out there with limited oversight that you or your children will eventually stumble upon that you can’t unsee.
Aside from the use of profanity within the app that goes unmonitored, there are other risks this application brings as soon as it is downloaded to your selected device. U.S. Government agencies have banned TikTok on devices that may contain sensitive or classified information due to the app being known to listen in on their users. The app is considered a gateway for Chinese officials to listen in, record, and save all videos published or unpublished forever.
As platforms like these continue to gain momentum, with a continuum of earlier access with lack of oversight and parental guidance, we are seeing an uptick in inappropriate content being posted by younger children. Without a clear set of restrictions mandated by the application itself, it’s becoming increasingly common for off-brand posts and resulting catfishing, cyberbullying and/or blackmailing to surface.
TikTok is under heightened scrutiny for its lack of regulations and the safety of minors. Currently, there are no parental restrictions for the Tik Tok application in the U.S., which means there is ultimately no way to prevent your child from engaging in dangerous, unhealthy, or inappropriate online activities on this application.
With so many parents and guardians asking, “should I allow my child to use TikTok?”
Here are some things to consider...
- You know your child better than anyone. If you’re ready to handle what your child might encounter on this site, and if you trust them to safely manage their content and followers, it can be a fun way for older teens and young adults to share talents and engage with peers on this application.
- We recommend not allowing your younger children to have their own platform until parental controls are established. Predators and pedophiles know this platform engages younger children and teens and is using this site to groom victims.
- Consider setting up a family account that you can monitor as a parent. By setting up the account together, it creates the ability to monitor activity within the app and have access to the username and password behind the account. Doing so can help open those communication channels about the safety risks behind social media, and will help establish a line of trust between you and your child. It can promote responsibility that the child will be accountable for. It will also give you opportunities to discuss as a family what off-brand content looks like and how we can all become more mindful of the things we post online.
SGS has created numerous resources to help identity what would work best for your family. Our downloadable TikTok Sheet reviews questions to encourage open and honest conversations about the app. Upon download, you will also discover more information about what TikTok is about.
Located under the parent resources page on our website, we have also included our rating of TikTok, which is based on our rating of privacy, safety and the content.