Parent Alert! Is TikTok Safe for Kids?

by May 21, 2019Tech Solutions

What Parents Need to Know About TikTok and Social Media Challenge Videos

Eleven-year-old Sarah opened up her TikTok app and saw a video of her favorite vlogger (video blogger) acting out a challenge that had gone viral: grab some common ingredients, including bleach (!), mix it up in a plastic Ziploc bag, and hold it against one eye for at least a minute.

The supposed result of the experiment? The eye would change color!

What Sarah didn’t realize is that the creator of this challenge – a 19-year-old college kid – made the video “to show off his editing ability.” In other words, it was a fake and very dangerous joke!

The eye bleach challenge is the latest viral stunt on Tik Tok, one that received 300,000 likes in the first week alone!

Talk to your kids about social media challenge videos – ASAP!

This is a great teaching moment for families. Have you ever talked to your kids about social media challenges? Here’s some discussion starters:

Sometimes parents are the ones recording their kids taking these challenges. Think about the message you want kids to internalize. Are they learning to seek attention on social media for approval and self-esteem?

Are they buying into “dare culture?” Today’s challenge might be harmless, but tomorrow it might be downright dangerous.

You could say, “Let’s do a funny challenge together, but we’ll only film it if you want to, and we’ll only share it with family.” CNN

Is the TikTok app safe for kids?

TikTok is a Chinese-owned video-sharing app.

Never heard of it? Well, surprise! TikTok was the 4th most-downloaded app of 2018 worldwide.

Is your tween or teen using the app? Here are some quick tips on what you need to know!

TikTok is used most by young people to post homemade lip-synching and dancing videos using popular music.

This (clean!) video will give you a flavor of what attracts kids to TikTok.

If you search YouTube for some of the TikTok video compilations, you’ll see in a few minutes what kind of content is on the platform (search with caution!) Some of it is goofy or silly. But there are also many videos of teens who are posting hyper-sexualized content.

Kids can create their own videos using thousands of popular songs in the app, which can have explicit lyrics.

Predators are watching and can share your child’s content with others. Where children play, predators prey. Unless the right privacy settings are in place, strangers can message your child.

The app is rated 12+ on the Apple store, but there is no way to verify a user’s age, so anyone can download it. In fact, social media app ratings are not the best way to determine if the content is kid-friendly or not! The FixAppRatings movement recommends that TikTok be used only by those over the age of 17.

If your child is using TikTok, there are some parental controls that you should take advantage of right away to reduce the risk of sexual predators finding your child.

Remember that this is one of many apps that features sexually suggestive, crude, and downright pornographic material on its user accounts. The following news story highlights the dangers and threats that come with this particular app:

Still unsure? Kinzoo has a handy list of TikTok pros and cons to help you decide.

A Social Media “Spring Clean” Can Protect Your Kids’ Privacy

Spring is a great time to “clean house!” This not only reduces clutter but helps us to move forward with confidence to enjoy the new season.

How about doing some digital clean up of our own social media accounts?

Some tips:

1.      Review the privacy settings for each of your social media accounts. Even if you know that you set them to private when you first signed up, make it a habit to do a quarterly check. Privacy policies can change without warning and without you knowing how your data are being tracked and used.

Tip: Set an appointment on your calendar this month and check your privacy settings on all media accounts, including Facebook and Instagram.

2.     Do you know all your followers and friends on social media? Look carefully through your lists and either unfriend or block those you don’t know or don’t feel comfortable having on your account.

As well, our interests change over time, so unfollowing accounts that don’t serve us anymore helps minimize distractions and media overload so that we can focus on the content we do want to see.

3.     Be especially careful of posting details that may expose your child’s identity: name, birthday, location, friends, doctor visits. If you post on your municipal or community Facebook page, be careful of unintentionally giving away information about your child, such as his school or sports practices.

4.    Be aware of using hashtags with your child’s photos. Hashtags allow your child’s photos to be searchable and makes it easier for predators to find them. Especially when they are tagged with terms like #pottytraining or #bathtime.

Related: 7 Ways Predators and Porn will Target Kids in 2019 – Be Prepared Not Scared!

Teen voices: Oversharing and your digital footprint

While you are cleaning up your digital feed, share what you are doing with your kids!

Your child may be more tech-savvy in terms of what the latest apps are, but you can model good digital citizenship and help her cultivate some healthy online habits.

Sometimes sharing a video of teens helping other teens can be a good conversation starter. Check this out!

With older kids, it’s great for parents to work and learn together to build trust and help each other navigate the good and not-so-good aspects of technology.

Stacey Dittman, M.A.
Stacey Dittman lives north of Toronto with her husband and two sons. She holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature and a master's degree in Language and Professional Writing.
Stacey has used her writing and research skills in the government, non-profit and small business sectors. She is thrilled to be working with Protect Young Minds to help empower parents with the latest available information and resources. She enjoys hiking and playing tennis with her family and working with junior high kids in her sons' youth group.

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