Young teen looking at her phone while standing in a road.

The Essential Parents’ Guide to TikTok

by Screen Time Team on 18/03/2020

Tracking every social media phenomenon kids fall in love with can be tough. And sometimes they’re difficult to understand, not least in terms of the appeal. TikTok, in particular, can be one parents struggle with. Here’s what you need to know about TikTok.

What Is TikTok?

Formally called, TikTok is best described as a sort of music-video maker. You choose the music, shoot your footage on your phone, and use some basic editing tools and filters to make it best suit what you’re trying to communicate. The videos have a strict time limit of fifteen seconds or less. It also allows people to record “react” videos with the video they’re watching alongside, or to “duet” with a video, placing two videos together.

It has, however, become much more than that. For example, a user on TikTok became enormously popular for sharing tips on how to fight medical bills. As TikTok evolves it’s more likely to become more like a cross between YouTube and Instagram, with the dangers and benefits of both.

What Are TikTok’s Safety And Privacy Settings?

Like any social media app, a core concern is who’s watching and listening. Discuss with your children your concerns about safety and privacy, and consider setting their account to private.

TikTok’s privacy settings are fairly straightforward; if you’ve set privacy on apps before, you should be able to navigate it. To make an account private, open the app, go to the profile page, and tap the three dots in the upper right-hand corner. Choose “Privacy and Safety” and you’ll see a toggle switch marked Private Account. You can also control who can “duet” with their videos and who can send comments to your kids.

As far as abuse and bullying, TikTok appears to have learned from the failures of other social media sites and generally acts quickly once negative or criminal behavior is reported. That said, there will always be predators and bullies who slip under the radar, so make sure your family knows it can come to you for help.

Teenage boy leaning against a railing while looking at his phone.

Can I Do Anything Else To Keep My Kids Safe On TikTok?

The main approach to take with TikTok, like any social media site, is to encourage a healthy relationship with it. Unlike a lot of social media, TikTok at least encourages creativity, but it can still suck you in with mindless scrolling if you’re not careful, eating up time and data.

So, set rules about overall screen time and time on TikTok, enforced with a parental control app. Make it clear TikTok should only be used in free time, not during school, chores, homework time, or other times of day that focus on a task is needed. Join TikTok and follow your kids to keep an eye on what they post, if necessary.

Above all, communicate with them and ensure they understand the reasons behind the rules. Any rule with a clear reason behind it is more likely to be followed than one that seems arbitrary. Kids deserve at least a degree of trust, with the understanding that you’re monitoring, and if they know the rules and the logic behind them, they’re more likely to follow them.

Want to keep more of an eye on TikTok and other social media apps? Screen Time can help. To see how, try Screen Time for free!

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