If you’ve got teenage offspring, you will probably know by now that “TikTok” isn’t just the sound that a clock makes. It’s also the name of a wildly popular social media app that lets its users film and shares short videos, often music-focused and with an array of filters and special effects.
You might have seen some disturbing headlines about TikTok, but should you really be worried about your child using it? In this article, we aim to sort the truths from the scaremongering.
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A brief introduction to TikTok
Understandably, right now, you may still have one question above all running through your head: “What is the TikTok app?” If you really need some elaboration, the app allows users to make short, visually decorated videos, lasting no longer than 60 seconds, with friends, family or the whole world.
You might remember this app as Musical.ly, which TikTok’s developers have bought before merging into its own platform, with content hosted on Musical.ly transferred to TikTok.
How old must someone be to use TikTok?
Officially, the minimum age, as specified in TikTok’s terms and conditions, is 13. During the sign-up process, you are required to enter your date of birth – but, if your age is under 13, the app displays a message cited by the non-profit organization Internet Matters: “Sorry, looks like you’re not eligible for TikTok. But thanks for checking us out!”
In theory, a younger applicant could simply circumvent this age registration by lying about their age. However, TikTok has told the BBC’s Newsround that, if they think this has occurred, the user’s account will be canceled.
Besides, HuffPost points out that the app is age-rated on app stores; hence, your child will be unable to download it through the iOS App Store or Google Play without your consent.
Is there worrying content on TikTok?
Some videos posted to TikTok feature language that parents would consider inappropriate for younger children. Parents have also expressed concern that predators could use the app in an attempt to reach out to children.
However, though all TikTok accounts are public by default, meaning that other users would be able to see what your child shares, only approved followers are allowed to send them messages. Furthermore, TikTok accounts can be set to private, limiting who can see them.
You should also let your child know that, if they see what looks like inappropriate content on TikTok, they can ask you to report it to TikTok staff, who will subsequently remove that content.
Is there the potential for bullying on TikTok?
Yes, the potential is there – as it is on any other social media platform. However, Holly H, the UK’s most popular TikTok user with millions of followers on the app, urges other TikTok users not to look at hate comments – and it’s even possible for a TikTok user to disable comments on their account entirely. Remember to inform your child that this is an option if they fear to receive fiercely negative responses to their content.