How to keep your kids safe on TikTok, the app that’s now the most popular in the world

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It’s the second most downloaded app in the world taking over the top spot from tech giant Facebook.

Now only WhatsApp stands in its way but there are probably still a few people who haven’t heard about TikTok.

If you don’t use it yourself, or have kids that are using it, chances are you will have heard somebody talking about it – or something they’ve seen on it.

TikTok launched in 2014 but grew in popularity when it bought out Musical.ly.

The concept of both is the same – video-sharing social media apps that let people create, share, and view videos made by other users, reports the MEN.

But the major draw of TikTok, over the likes of Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram, is that users can record and upload bite-sized looping videos of themselves lip-syncing and dancing to popular soundbites or music.

These are often enhanced with emojis, filters and stickers.

Recommended for ages 12 plus, online safety experts say it has been “designed with the young user in mind and has a very addictive appeal”.

Because of that – and the fact it’s often used by children under 12 – National Online Safety has now produced a new guide for parents to help keep youngsters safe when using it.



Beware of predators

Among the warnings it gives parents is that “TikTok is prone to predators because of the abundance of younger users”.

“As a social network, TikTok makes it easy to connect with other users. This includes the ability to comment on and react to other user’s videos, follow their profile and download their content,” says the guide.

“Be aware that by default, any user can comment on your child’s video if their account is set to public.”

It warns of “inappropriate music” with some videos containing “explicit or suggestive lyrics”, which children may look to imitate.

And it stresses that despite the age guidance, anyone can sign up for the app as “it’s possible to lie about your age without any form of verification”.



Youngsters can be at risk using Facebook
Youngsters can be at risk using the internet

“As children scroll through their feed, most of the videos they’re likely to come across are lighthearted or funny takes on dance routines which are designed to make people laugh,” says the guide.

“However there has been a slew of videos which have been reported for featuring drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm and sexual content, including young teens dressing overtly sexually and behaving suggestively.

“Given the deluge of material uploaded to TikTok every day, it’s impossible to moderate everything and it can be quite common to come across explicit content on the ‘for you’ feed when logging into the platform.”

The addictive nature of the app is another area of concern – the app’s ability to keep you guessing what will come on screen next makes it easy to turn five-minute visit into 45-minute visit – as are the drastic lengths that some young people may go to in their bid to become ‘TikTok famous’.

In an effort to keep users safe the guide issues a number of safety tips for parents, including moderating screen time, learning how to report and block inappropriate content and using privacy settings.

Above all, experts say it’s important for parents to get involved – both talking to their children about online dangers and finding out how the app works themselves.

“Assuming your child is above the age limit to use the app, make sure you also take the time to talk to them about what they are seeing,” the guide says.



Dialogue

“Have a dialogue, get them to give you their opinion on what is appropriate and model the correct behaviour for them.

“Go over why they shouldn’t give out private information or identifiable photos and be positive and understanding of them.

“In the long run, getting them to think critically about what they’re seeing goes a long way to keeping them social media savvy.”

The guide is one of many produced by National Online Safety covering different apps, platforms and general online safety risks.

Chris Skinner, senior online safety advisor at the training provider, told the MEN: “The guides aim to enable parents and carers to have age-appropriate conversations with their children about both the benefits and risks associated with the online world.

“Clearly TikTok is a very popular app among many children and young people. We believe it is imperative that parents, carers and trusted adults have an informed understanding of all of the online apps and games their children are utilising to be able to effectively safeguard their children from online risks.”

For more online safety guides from National Online Safety, visit the website here.



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