If I asked you to guess which apps are on your child’s phone right now, could you give me an answer? As parents, it can feel overwhelming to stay on top of the constant flow of information, media, trends, and noise that is specifically targeted at our children. One such app that has skyrocketed in popularity is TikTok, with over 3 billion downloads, making it the most downloaded app in 2021. In this article, we will explore 5 crucial things parents need to know about TikTok in 2023 to ensure their children stay safe and make the most out of their digital experiences.
1. Is TikTok Safe for Kids?
Privacy Settings Have Been Updated for Young Users
In the past, all TikTok accounts defaulted to a “public” setting, exposing users of all ages to direct messages and interactions from strangers. However, in a welcome change, TikTok now sets the default privacy setting to “private” for users aged 13-15. Additionally, videos created by users under 16 years old are restricted by default for download, unless the settings are changed or updated. With a private TikTok account, only approved followers can view the user’s videos, providing an added layer of safety.
Suggestive Content Abounds
As with any social media platform, TikTok hosts its fair share of suggestive content. Given that the app revolves around music and video, it’s no surprise that profanity and suggestive clothing/dancing are prominent sources of adult content. Moreover, TikTok encourages themes and challenges that may be more mature than its 16+ rating implies. While the app has faced bans in countries like China, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan due to the increase and promotion of inappropriate content, it’s essential for parents to actively monitor their child’s TikTok usage and guide them in their online interactions.
2. What is the Age Limit for TikTok?
To join TikTok, users must be at least 13 years old. However, the app doesn’t employ any age verification tools during sign-up. Therefore, if your child creates a new account without your knowledge, they may gain access to explicit and inappropriate content without restriction. It’s important for parents to be aware of their child’s TikTok usage and engage in open discussions about responsible digital behavior.
3. What Are TikTok’s Parental Controls?
TikTok’s “Family Pairing” feature allows parents to link their child’s account to their own, granting them control over direct messages, screen time limits, and restricted content. Parents receive notifications if any settings are changed or turned off from their child’s device. Additionally, the app offers a “Digital Wellbeing” setting that allows parents to set time limits on app usage, supporting healthy online habits. Although not foolproof, these parental controls provide valuable tools for guiding and protecting your child’s TikTok experience.
4. Will TikTok Affect My Child’s Mental Health?
While TikTok offers opportunities for socializing and creative expression, it’s important to acknowledge its potential impact on your child’s mental health. Like any social media platform, negative reactions and harsh comments can take a toll on self-esteem, body image, and confidence. In extreme cases, TikTok can contribute to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. It is crucial for parents to foster open conversations with their children about online content and provide emotional support when needed.
5. Does TikTok Collect User Data?
Like many social media apps, TikTok collects user data. It shares data with third-party service providers, business partners, advertisers, and analytics and search engine providers. Additionally, the app used to collect data from the phone clipboard, even when not in use, potentially capturing sensitive information such as passwords and private conversations. Ensuring your phone’s security settings are up to date and using the latest operating system, such as iOS 14 or higher, can mitigate these concerns.
In the end, staying informed and actively engaging in your child’s digital world is crucial. By having ongoing open conversations about the content they encounter on TikTok and encouraging them to come to you if they encounter harmful or inappropriate content, you can create a safer and more positive online experience for your child. Remember, you don’t have to navigate this digital journey alone. Be creative, stay safe, and don’t hesitate to seek support when needed.