Generally speaking, parents everywhere should be careful about letting their kids join social media platforms. You should talk to them ahead of time about the potential dangers, and also let them know that you’ll have access to their passwords and accounts and will be free to check their activity at any time.
Savvy parents are already doing these things, but every time a new app gets popular, they face a new learning curve. And while TikTok is super fun, very popular, and used by kids around the world, it probably comes as no surprise that people who are looking to prey on those kids are on it, too.
TikTok was developed in China and, since its launch in 2017, has been downloaded more than 80 million times – handily surpassing Snapchat in popularity. The platform allows 3 to 60 second videos and encourages interaction in multiple ways. The app allows users as young as 13 to sign up without parental consent.
Australian cybersecurity expert Susan McLean is adding her voice to the chorus yelling that the space is not even close to safe for kids, due to the access it gives people looking to groom and bully them.
“Any app that allows communication can be used by predators. TikTok does not have the same safety sessions as some of the more well-known apps and routinely do not remove accounts that have been flagged as potentially a predatory. …The data gathering is a huge concern and if the government is worried then it is not a place for kids.”
Setting your kids’ accounts to private will keep them from being contacted directly through the app, but TikTok admits that “even with a private account, profile information – including profile photo, username, and bio – will be visible to all users.”
Reports from the United Kingdom claim that kids as young as 8 were getting bullied, groomed, and spammed with explicit messages.
A representative reminded parents that the app ages are 13+.
“TikTok is an app for users age 13 and over, and we’ve give the app a 12+ App Store rating so parents can simply block it from their child’s phone using device-based controls.”
Kids are vulnerable to predators on all social media apps – really anywhere online – so talking to yours about how to respond and what to do if and when something happens to them is vitally important. You and your kids should be aware of the dangers, no matter how tough the conversation, because you’ll need to partner up to keep your little loves – and hopefully others – safe online.
For now, definitely don’t let your under-13’s talk you into TikTok, and when they do age into the app, be sure you’re checking up on their activity regularly.
It’s a brave new world, parents, but we can do this together!