The notion of becoming virally famous has made TikTok a massive hit. Gen Z, in particular, can’t get enough of the said app. That is a worrisome thought! Are you worried about the safety hazards of TikTok and the kind of content your kids are consuming? If yes, you are not alone!
As parents, we try to do what’s best for our kids. From buying them the best kids tablets and ensuring to fulfil their educational and entertainment needs, to taking care of their physical and mental health, we try to do as much as we can. But being a generation old, there are certain risks we are not fully aware of.
Even the most technically challenged parents are aware of the fact that the internet is swamped with the content of all types. And consuming all types of content is not safe for kids and even adults. Ever since TikTok emerged as a massively popular app, the concerns about user safety became more legit by the day.
What is TikTok and How Does it Work?
As of 2020, the app has over 1.65 billion downloads. And teens and tweens don’t seem to get enough of it! So, what exactly is TikTok? For the uninitiated, it is a social networking app that allows users to share user-generated videos. Most of these are lip-sync videos to popular songs or comedic snippets from shows/movies.
Users can make video content where they sing, dance, lip-sync, or just talk. You can also interact and browse with the content from other users. Hashtags make the video groupings, usually corresponding to memes or challenges.
Moreover, you can sign up using your email, phone number, or a third-party account. If you talk about Internet safety for kids, using any social media forum can be risky. However, using them safely is possible with adult supervision. And the same is true for TikTok.
To begin with, parents should ensure that their kids have a private account. This way, their info, photos, location, comments, reactions, messages, and duets will only visible to friends instead of everyone.
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Predators Can Target Kids
Just like other social media platforms, users can contact practically anyone in the world. Almost every social networking site has commenting features and DMs. So, your kids ending up talking to strangers is very much possible. And if they encounter predators and bullies, it can affect them.
However, it doesn’t stop there. The nature of TikTok is different. It highly encourages performance. And users naturally get excited to showcase their talents. When they are expecting appreciation and praise, it is easier for predators to target them with compliments and flattery. Once they manage to make them feel at ease by making them special, they are then free to pursue their real intentions.
Experts point out that the Duets feature of TikTok is exploited by sexual predators. With the said feature, a user can remix his lip-sync or dance video with another user’s video alongside to make a new clip. Reports enlighten that predators lurking on the Duets send explicit messages to young video creators.
The App’s Nature Can Cause Anxiety in Kids
We have heard the concerns about how all social media forums induce the feeling of FOMO, competition, and the need of seeking virtual validation. You may think that TikTok helps in supporting the artistic impulses and talents of the kids. But a lesser-known fact is that it can also cause anxiety.
Kids are stuck with the pressure to create more content and follow every trending challenge on TikTok. It’s more like a competition of trying to create better content. The race of getting more validation is another story. To stay on top of every video trend causes anxiety, which can get critical if you are not becoming popular.
If you look up the challenges trending on TikTok right now, the number will surprise you. And people from across the globe are participating in them. Some of them are not even safe. The choking game, cinnamon challenge, Kiki challenge, first move last move challenge, are some of the popular challenges on TikTok. Recently, the Savage Challenge was trending and it has now over 674.9M views.
Privacy Concerns Related to User Data on TikTok
TikTok was fined $5.7 million by The Federal Trade Commission of the United States for violating COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) in 2019. This is perhaps the largest civil penalty in a case related to children’s privacy.
The app failed to obtain parental consent about collecting their under-13 kids’ data as dictated by the aforementioned law. When the parents realized the violation, thousands of them complained. As a result, TikTok tried to increase its efforts to ensure improved security and privacy.
However, as a parent, you need to stay vigilant against these data abuses. Remember, supervision is the key. If your kid is complaining about Internet stuttering and wants to go to his room, go with them. Make them feel comfortable about sharing their TikTok ventures with you instead of behaving like a strict supervisor.
Encountering Inappropriate Content is Easy
TikTok comprises of two main feed sections. The ‘For You’ is the default section that consists of algorithmically generated video streams. In addition, the ‘Following’ section features a feed more personally curated with uploads from the users you are following. This can be particularly problematic.
Even with a private account, users can be exposed to violent, pornographic content and dangerous stunts from the public feed. Moreover, your kids can also end up getting access to discriminatory and racist content.
So the next time your kid asks you to invest in a Wi-Fi extender for them to enjoy their TikTok adventures in their bedroom, make sure you are around for essential parental supervision.