It can be hard to keep track of all the different social media apps but one app that has quickly taken the world by storm is video sharing app, TikTok.
The social media app has experienced a phenomenal phase of growth, and within the space of two years, it has amassed over 500 million active users worldwide and developed a larger following than Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn.
Formally known as Musical.ly, the app was taken over by Chinese owned company ByteDance in 2018 and all its users were transferred over to TikTok. Since then, the app has exploded in popularity and the company has been valued at a staggering $75 billion dollars.
Despite being one of the fastest growing social media platforms in the world, the app has been fined for data protection violations, accused of censoring political content and lambasted for not doing enough to protect young children on the platform.
This has prompted many parents to take a closer look at the app and to find out what steps can be taken to protect their children online.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a free social media app that is used for creating, sharing and discovering music videos. The videos are recorded in 15- 60-second clips and users can add lots of different special effects and filters before sharing on the platform. Users can engage with their favourite influencers, share memes and jokes, take part in viral internet challenges and connect with friends. Like a lot of other social media platforms and apps, the basic premise is to create engaging content and to like, share or comment on the videos you enjoy.
Who uses TikTok?
According to Global Web Index, 41% of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24 years old. When the app launched it had a predominantly female user base; however, recent statistics suggest that 55.6% of all TikTok users are now male.
The app is also attracting the attention of celebrities who are keen to get a slice of the action and use the platform as a fun way to engage with fans. Many businesses are also attempting to leverage off the platform’s success by using TikTok challenges and contests as a way to encourage users to generate brand-related content.
How do you use TikTok?
You can sign up to TikTok with a phone number, email address, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram account. Once logged in, you can search for popular users, categories and hashtags to find specific videos, or you can use your phone contacts and social media followers to find friends already on the platform. The app has simplified the process of creating a video and without much time or effort, you can create a short video and post it instantly.
TikTok differs from a lot of other social media apps in that it revolves less around the people you follow and more about introducing you to new content. When you launch the app, you’ll immediately be taken to the ‘For You’ page rather than just seeing the posts of other people. The content of the page is generated through an algorithm based on all the videos you’ve previously watched, liked or shared. This ensures that you’re only interacting with content you’re genuinely interested in.
Is TikTok safe for kids?
While TikTok is generally safe for kids, there have been instances of cyberbullying and reports of online predators targeting children and teens with inappropriate content. TikTok requires that users are at least 13 years old to use the app and that anyone under the age of 18 must have approval of a parent or guardian. Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped many tween users from making their way onto the platform. In February 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) fined TikTok a record $5.7m for illegally collecting the personal information of children under 13.
The FTC ruled that the app broke the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by failing to seek parental consent before collecting the names, email addresses and other personal information from users under 13. The app has since tightened up controls; however, this has prompted the ICO to launch its own investigation into whether the company has violated the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
How can I protect my child on TikTok?
Since the app is not intended for younger kids, parents should pay close attention to the age limit to ensure their child is not exposed to any explicit or inappropriate content. As with any social network, privacy settings play an important part in limiting how much information your child can share online.
User accounts on TikTok are all public by default, so the first thing parents should do is turn on all the privacy settings. This means either choosing a private account, or changing the settings for ‘comments, duets, reactions, and messages to ‘Friends’ instead of ‘Everyone’. The location service should also be turned off for extra security.
You should also regularly speak to your child about what they share online and let them know that they can talk to you if they feel threatened or come across any content they find distressing. If they want to block another user on the platform, all they need to do is go into their profile and click ‘block’.
What Countries is TikTok Banned in?
TikTok was temporarily banned in Indonesia after the Indonesian government accused it of promoting pornography, inappropriate content and blasphemy. Shortly afterwards the country lifted the ban and employed 20 staff to censor any inappropriate content on the platform.
The company has also found itself embroiled in a number of other controversies, including banning LGBTQ content in Turkey and censoring pro-Hong-Kong videos. Just last week, TikTok issued an apology for blocking a US teenager from the platform after she posted a video highlighting Beijing’s treatment of Muslims in Xinjiang.
The company has been quick to claim that they do not apply Chinese censorship rules on the international version of its app; however, the US government is not so sure. In light of the concerns over data security and the alleged censorship of political content, the Committee on Foreign Investment is launching an investigation to determine if the app poses a threat to national security.
As with any social media app, it’s important to do your research. Familiarise yourself with TikTok’s community guidelines to get a better understanding of what you can and can’t share, use enhanced privacy settings and keep a close eye on your child’s online activity to make sure they are not being exposed to any distressing or inappropriate content.
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