Last week I went to a Starbucks event, for the launch of their new Phantom Frappuccino, a limited-time drink for Halloween.
The event was based around the mobile app TikTok, and encouraged guests to post videos to the platform. My son had to give me a crash course, and opened up my phone – and mind – to quite an intimidating (for now) social media platform.
Last year, it was one of the most downloaded mobile apps for Apple and Android devices in the US and Europe, overtaking the likes of YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.
If you have a tween, chances are they’re using TikTok. While it’s only recommended for kids 13 and over, it’s being used – and loved – by younger kids.
It’s one of those platforms that is used more by our kids than us, which is why I think parents should get savvier about what it is, and how we can protect our kids, which is why I’ve put together this post.
What is it
TikTok is a social network for sharing user-generated videos that are 15 or 60 seconds long, mostly of people lip-synching to popular songs. It was originally called musical.ly (pronounced MU-zik-lee). Users can create and upload their own videos where they talk, lip-synch, sing or dance. Users can add music and special effects, and share them on the site.
You can browse and interact with other users’ content, which covers a wide range of topics, songs, and styles. These videos can be grouped by hashtags.
Things you should be doing if your child is on TikTok
TikTok has very useful safety videos, and have put together 10 great tips to help keep your child as safe as possible while using TikTok.
Here they are:
Enable device-level parental controls. TikTok is intended for users 13 and over, and it’s been given a 12+ app store rating. This allows you to use device-based parental controls provided by Google and Apple to block the app from an underage child’s phone. For more, see instructions for iOS or Android for more on parental controls (or “restrictions”) and how to enable them.
Set your teen’s account to private
By default, a TikTok account starts as public – but you can easily enable a private account in the privacy and safety settings.
Decide who can follow you
Even if your teen has a private account, they can manage who follows their account by removing followers or blocking users and at any time, for any reason. Removing a follower will curtail that user’s ability to send your teen a direct message, while blocking a user will also stop them from interacting with or viewing your teen’s content at all.
Limit the content you see. If your teen comes across a video that doesn’t vibe with what they want to watch, they can simply long-press on that video and tap ‘Not Interested’ to see less of that sort of video in the future.
At the account level, enabling Restricted Mode is an option that limits the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for all audiences. Restricted Mode can always be adjusted if you’d like to disable it as your teen ages, but in the meantime you can set it behind a passcode for additional control.
Control your comment section
Whether an account is private or public, your teen has the power to decide whether they want to allow comments on their videos from everyone, followers only – or restrict them altogether.
Again, this can be set either at the account level, or adjusted for each individual video they create. And even with comments on, your teen can take granular control by enabling comment filters and setting a custom list of keywords that will be automatically blocked from any comments on their videos. Learn more about controlling comments here.
Set messaging preferences
Messaging can be a great way to trade creative ideas with other users, but on TikTok only your teen’s followers can send them a private message. Your teen can unfollow or block a user to curtail an individual’s ability to send a DM, or disable messaging entirely from their privacy settings.
Duets can be a fun way to create videos with another user, but your teen has the control to decide who can make duets with or react to their content.
They can set their preference just once at the account level and have the chosen setting apply to all their videos, or choose to selectively enable or disable duets for just a particular
Report anything that violates the TikTok guidelines
TikTok is a community that embraces creativity and values support and positivity, and that code of conduct is outlined in the Community Guidelines. If your teen sees anything that they believe violates these guidelines, they can report content or a profile directly from within the app.
Put a cap on screen time
Screen Time Management offers a way to limit the time your teen spends on the app each day. The feature, a part of our Digital Wellbeing offerings, lives behind a passcode and can be enabled for various time limits up to 2 hours. At the device level, screen time can also be managed directly through parental controls in Android and iOS device settings.
Make videos together
For more info on how to adjust your privacy settings and controls, check out the Parental Guide. There are several resources you can access directly from the Parents Portal in our Safety Center, including The Family Online Safety Institute’s 7 Steps to Good Digital Parenting guide.