TikTok has been one of the fastest-growing social media platforms in the last 3 years (2020 to 2023). However, its wide range of adoption within a short period has signaled concerns from some government regulatory bodies.
What’s interesting is that TikTok offers exposure to a lot of information; you can see and learn a lot in 30 minutes just by scrolling through TikTok.
What’s even more interesting is that TikTok is very addictive to kids, so they tend to spend a lot of time there entertaining themselves and probably doing other kinds of stuff they know about.
So, as a parent who has witnessed the impact of social media on kids, it’s natural to be concerned about kids’ safety as they interact with the TikTok platform, considering the high dose of information on the platform.
That said, this article explores all you need to know about TikTok and if it is safe for kids. Let’s get started.
What You Should Know About TikTok
TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms where you can live stream, watch and create video content. It is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance and hosts user-submitted videos ranging from 3 seconds to 10 minutes.
It has been considered the fastest-growing social media platform in the United States, hitting over a billion users around the third quarter of 2021.
Given this high adoption rate, especially in the United States, chances are, 60 percent of residents in your neighborhood are TikTokers, including your kids, and maybe you as well; not leaving out your partner, by the way.
Now, while Social media has its many glaring advantages, the flip side of this innovation has an adverse effect on adults, let alone kids.
The various Social media handles like Facebook, WhatsApp, TikTok, Instagram, and the likes are being continuously explored with an increasing number of people downloading the applications and creating accounts.
According to Demandsage, TikTok has a total download of 3.5 billion worldwide and over a billion users across 154 countries. It has also been downloaded over 130 million times in the United States, the country with the largest TikTok users.
This shows how widely spread the app is, consisting of a broad range of users within its reach.
Features Of TikTok
One of the attractive features of the mobile app is that it allows users to create short videos featuring music in the background.
The availability of many filters and different music genres makes it stand out, attractive, and flexible for different use, particularly for content creators.
These features make it very appealing to younger ones. From research, kids have also been found to be members making up the rich community of TikTok.
TikTok has an official age rating of 13+. Users can watch videos and create videos as well as live streams. Statistics show that more than 1 billion videos are viewed daily on TikTok.
The app also uses an algorithm geared toward bringing the content of interest to the users. The app embraces an extensive range of videos covering different topics, ideas, and fields of life.
Seeing that TikTok allows different kinds of content, particularly in video formats, one would understand the rising concern and need to answer the question: Is TikTok safe for kids? Let’s find out.
Is TikTok Safe For Kids
Having seen your kid spend several hours on TikTok, it is normal for a parent to begin to raise brows as to how safe the child is as they scroll through loads of content.
Hence parents start asking, “Is Tik-tok safe for my kids?”, “Should I allow my 13 years old use Tik-tok?”, “what can I do to ensure their safety?”
While TikTok is an excellent platform for people to socialize, connect, explore their creativity, and generate income, there are some downsides that parents might not know about.
On the other hand, these features can be considered inappropriate and potentially affect the child’s psychological, mental, social, and general well-being.
Owning to the functioning of TikTok using algorithms, kids likely come across content unsuitable for their mental capacity.
These kids can also get exposed to immoral information and negative comments, which are detrimental to the formative stage of the kid.
Nudity, suggestive images, and addiction are not equally left out in the danger of kids getting exposed to TikTok.
One of the app’s features allows kids to connect with different people, including strangers, through messaging. Unfortunately, kids left unguarded are also at risk of making contact with the wrong people.
After observing some behavioral changes in their kid, a parent or legal guardian, might wonder if using TikTok affects their psychological well-being.
Unfortunately, yes, unguarded and continuous use of TikTok will affect their growing mind.
Kids are in their formative age; hence the contents they consume will significantly influence their growth and how they perceive the world at large.
This usually does not come as an overnight outcome. It’s like how adults are significantly affected by what they see, hear, and consume; kids are not left out.
It is even more dangerous for them to see because, at that age, they’re still finding their feet and learning how to make good decisions. At that stage, they are mostly ignorant of the consequences of their decision.
The continuous exposure of kids to daily doses of unguarded content from TikTok will most likely affect the child in the long run as it will gradually become evident in your kid, indicated by some changes in their behavioral pattern.
California Attorney General Rob Binta states, “Our children are growing up in the age of social media, and many feel like they need to measure up to the filter versions of reality that they see on the screen.”
This is one of the issues that begets several kids’ psychological damage. You hear of depression, anxiety, in the worst-case scenario, suicide.
Depression results from low self-esteem and damaged self-confidence, which are usually caused by negative comments, and it is almost inevitable when kids (susceptible kids) explore TikTok unguarded.
There is also a rising effect of addiction to screens with further complications, like lack of concentration, short attention span, body insecurities stemming from comparisons, and in some cases, a false sense of reality.
Including anxiety gotten from not meeting up to standard, lower engagements are also not far-fetched.
Other Downsides of TikTok
These are videos that go viral. They include activities ranging from songs, dance, and other trending content. But, of course, pranks are also not left out.
While this is generally fun, there is also a risky part. For instance, some trending dance steps that kids replicate require professional instructors.
In the absence of any, there is a risk of injury. Challenges like Skull Breaker Challenge and the Black-out challenge are some of the unhealthy challenges.
Recently, there was an ongoing challenge organized by a music brand that had persons consume harmful substances in a bid to make the best content from the ongoing challenge.
Kids are at risk as they will ignorantly partake in such harmful trends due to the need to feel among or from the euphoria of the trend.
Exposure To Sexual Predators
While efforts are being made to cut the menace of sexual predators from reaching out to kids on TikTok, there is still such occurrence on the platform.
The platform is open to different age grades as well as different mindsets. Perverted minds also use TikTok too. Hence, your kids will likely meet with these people online.
To create content or follow a trend, kids could get caught up in releasing private details about their life, such as filming the front of their homes, sharing locations, and the like.
This inadvertently exposes the unsuspecting kids to malicious persons who can use this information to harm them.
Furthermore, some governments have suggested that TikTok may endanger sensitive user data. A German lawmaker has also said that TikTok poses several unacceptable risks for European users.
Cyberbullying has become common in social media platforms, and unfortunately, TikTok is one of the leading platforms where it happens. And it’s no surprise at all because Tiktok is a platform primarily for kids and teenagers, and cyberbullying is a practice carried out by mostly kids and teenagers.
Cyberbullying on TikToks usually comes in the form of hate comments and diss videos (where a user uses a video to say unkind words and refer them to their person of target by tagging them to the video)
Diss video could contain unkind words of criticism or body shaming content targeted to a user with the intent to make them feel bad. Unfortunately, a lot of this has happened and is still happening on TikTok.
Some kids have suffered emotional, mental, and psychological distress due to cyberbullying, which has affected their self-esteem. This is why protecting your kids on TikTok and the entire cyberspace is very important.
Benefits Of TikTok For Kids
TikTok has amazing benefits for kids like;
- Educational benefits
- Opportunity to connect
- Entertainment benefit
In as much as TikTok has its downsides, it is also a great platform where kids can learn educative things like cooking, braiding, listening to health talks, and even doing school work. But, of course, this can only work when they interact with the proper handles on TikTok.
Some kids learn better by watching videos, as this increases their attentiveness.
“I have a YouTube channel where I post educative things, but my audience is usually low. Then, I learned about this amazing app called TikTok and decided to check it out. My audience grew massively. Kids from my class enjoyed my uploads there, and learning became fun and easier” Clara, a teacher, shared her experience with the app.
Some teachers have also confessed that they enjoy using TikTok to teach kids.
Opportunity To Connect
With billions of users on this platform, it is easier for kids to connect with their friends, relatives, teachers, and good strangers who will significantly influence them.
After a stressful day at school, a cool and entertaining video could go a long way in soothing your kid’s stress. TikTok short videos can entertain your kids because of their fun content.
And if your kids are content creators, they can relieve themselves by doing what they love (creating content).
This app is known for its’ creative content. It is of kids’ nature to practice things they learn.
Children who watch entertaining, educative, and creative videos tend to practice them and create something new, giving room for creativity.
For instance, a kid watching a pencil drawing on TikTok, or even how to take care of pets. This video gives them new ideas on things to try out.
The platform gives room for people to create videos and display their skills. Kids with skills can use the app to show the world what they got and even get an opportunity to monetize their skills at a young age.
TikTok creates opportunities for kids to be seen and contacted as brand ambassadors for potential deals to earn them money.
TikTok Gifting (Coins)
On TikTok, users can gift coins to content creators during live streams. The coins can be converted to real money, and many content creators with large followers have benefited from this.
What Can I Do As A Parent?
Have A Conversation With Them
Firstly, as a parent, you must get conversant with the app to have informed conversations during your leisure time or family time with the kids.
You should explore the app together and let them know the dangers of exposing their minds to watching nudity, negative comments, some trends, and the like.
They should also be aware of the importance of protecting their privacy and avoiding giving out sensitive information.
TikTok offers many privacy options, including making your profile private, which allows you to approve someone before they can be your follower. Teach them to use such privacy options for their protection.
Explore The Use Of Digital Well-being
As a parent, using Digital Well-Being is an excellent means to protect your kids from the negative aspect of TikTok. You can use it to control how much time your kids spend on TikTok and the kind of content they watch, not just on TikTok but on other social media platforms that provide good privacy settings.
Features like CONTENT PREFERENCES can be used to control the kind of content that pops up on their screen.
The DAILY SCREEN feature allows users to track their time on TikTok. They can also use this feature to control how much time they want to spend on TikTok daily. This will allow them to face other essential things in life.
The RESTRICTED MODE feature limits the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for all audiences.
FILTER VIDEO KEYWORD allows users to filter out inappropriate keywords or hashtags. Once you’ve filtered out the unwanted keywords, you won’t see content containing such keywords or hashtags anymore.
Enable Family Pairing
Here, the parent or legal guardian uses the family parenting setting on the TikTok app, where the parents’ TikTok account is linked to their child’s account.
This will enable you to manage your child’s privacy settings.
TikTok is a social media platform with millions of users worldwide.
It is an app open to users of different age ranges; hence, kids can easily access it, even though it has an official age rating of 13+.
This has brought much concern to parents who think of their kid’s safety.
One amazing feature of this platform is its privacy setting that can protect kids from certain content.
When kids are left free on the app, without parental control, they can easily get exposed to cyberbullying and inappropriate content.
Cyberbullying for kids could cause depression and may lead to suicidal thoughts.
However, to protect users, TikTok offers privacy and safety features like; restricted mode, daily screen time, parental settings, filter comments, and direct message control.
Although there are great benefits of Tiktok for kids, this app can teach them new things. During a survey, it was discovered that many kids learn the English language on this app. It makes learning fun.
There are opportunities for kids to display their skills and get more creative ideas.
As a parent, to avoid exposing your kids, you could spend time with them using the app and the parental settings.
Have a conversation with your kids, educating them on the danger of participating in some trends that could harm them, and make them see the educative part of the app.
In as much as how this app can be entertaining and educative, it is equally addictive. Unfortunately, when kids get addicted to this app, it can harm their bookwork as they spend more time on the app than reading.
Finally, having weighed the merits and the loud-sounding demerits associated with kids using TikTok, parents should not let their kids use the application unguarded.