Is TikTok Threatening Your Child’s Safety Online?

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Being in lockdown has inspired many to pursue hobbies they’d otherwise never have time for — baking the perfect sourdough loaf, growing a batch of microgreens, finally fixing up the house and of course...entertaining oneself with the infamous platform we all know as TikTok. For most adults, this platform is observed from afar, but some have completely embraced it. Gen Z however, haven’t merely adopted it, they’ve become the primary users, creating new dance challenges, starting businesses and becoming key influencers of a new generation. 

Yet, with such popularity comes a great deal of security concerns, primarily amongst parents with children on TikTok. As security fears ramp up, the need for increased cyber safety for kids is rising. 

TikTok’s Security Concerns 

As is with all social networks, there’s always an element of risk involved, especially when it comes to a child’s safety online. Beyond the security concerns that TikTok is collecting an obscene amount of data on its users behind the scenes, there are some direct concerns on hand too. TikTok as a video platform can expose children to explicit content — from racist to sexual content. 

Like any other social media platform, an account created on TikTok is public, unless the privacy settings are changed. Until they are not directly changed, other users can easily contact your child through the platform, ‘duet’ their videos (a feature that allows users to respond to videos with their own video response) and comment on videos. 

TikTok is also often seen as a large-scale popularity war wherein children within a class will often use TikTok to create content, and then rely on likes received to measure their success. While at first TikTok was looked at as a way for children to be expressive, it has now also been turned into another tool for cyberbullying. Videos can be termed ‘cringey’ with comment sections attacking the user who posted it, children can be forced to perform dangerous challenges through peer pressure or in an effort to gain ‘clout’ (internet slang for influence or power) and in the long-term, may cause anxiety. 

A Parent’s Guide To TikTok-Related Problems 

The first step is always awareness. If you can’t beat them, join them! Understand the platform they’re on before you make any drastic decisions. When they see you cooperating, they’re more likely to understand and listen to any valid questions or fears you may have about the platform. It also allows you to make informed decisions about the same. 

One of the first measures you can take is to control the level of privacy your child’s account has which can easily be addressed through the Profile page. Here, adjusting who can contact you, react to videos or ‘duet’ videos, is possible. This is an important privacy setting to change, especially for younger children on the video platform. 

In response to all the security concerns, TikTok themselves has launched a Family Safety Mode, which gives parents control over their child’s account. This gives parents access to multiple features such as enabling a set amount of screen time, putting in content guidelines and increased control over privacy settings. If you are uncomfortable using TikTok to monitor your child’s safety due to the backdoor security concerns that come with the app, consider using other trusted software programs that make parental controls on apps a part of their protection packages, such as Norton Family Premier. 

Most importantly, always have an open conversation with your children about your concerns. Be willing to listen to their side and reach a compromise that everyone can adapt to. Having healthy conversations about online safety is essential, especially as we move further towards a world that is completely online. 

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Bridget Black is a writer and editor, currently living in Melbourne. She is a copywriter for Newpath Web and loves working with words of all shapes and sizes. When not playing around with punctuation and grammar, she enjoys travelling and curating her Spotify playlists.

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