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What you need to know about TikTok …..

TikTok, formerly Musical.ly, is currently the most downloaded non-gaming app and achieved the highest downloads globally in the first quarter of 2022 with 175 million downloads. It is insanely popular with tweens and teens with doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Globally, 66% of users are under the age of 30 and in Australia 41% of users are aged between 16 -24 but users have been recorded as young as 10 years old. It’s important to note that the age requirement for creating a TikTok account is 13. Accounts created for users aged between 13-15 automatically default to a private account when set up.

With the recent media coverage of Deakin University, Victoria controversially being granted half a million dollars to fund the addition of modern media, such as TikTok, into the Victorian School Curriculum, there has been a lot of loud noise about the safety of the platform for tweens and teens. It is important to note that the intention of the program isn’t to be able to access TikTok during school hours but rather customise the curriculum to encourage students to present assessment in a way that they enjoy. Very similar to the introduction of ‘gamification’ into the education system. However, experts and parents alike are concerned about the use of a platform that seems harmful to children. 

TikTok was, simply, designed to share videos to your favourite music however there are two very distinct sides to TikTok. The fun, creative side where your children are making videos to share with friends and have a laugh. Then there is the other side, the one of concern, is the ‘For You’ feed that shows suggested content to your children. While TikTok’s policy is to ban anyone who is uploading illegal or inappropriate content, you only have to spend 5 minutes on your child’s TikTok account to realise that there is limited quality control on uploads. Your child can be easily exposed to sexually explicit, inappropriate, or dangerous content. So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty and hash out the pros and cons. 

What are the PROS of TikTok?

  • Engaging, interactive, and entertaining 
  • Provides connectivity through the shared interest of music
  • Easily accessible creative outlet
  • An opportunity for learning from instructional type videos
  • Social environment where they can interact with current friends or make new ones

What are the CONS of TikTok?

Like most social media platforms TikTok’s algorithm is designed to maximise the amount of time you are on the platform.  Algorithms are usually recommendation based so they map your regular viewing and recommend similar content but initially what you see is based on who you chose to follow.  TikTok is different it is a recommendation first platform, once you set up your account you have access to millions of 15 second videos created by people you don’t know about topics you didn’t indicate you were interested in. It’s like TikTok guides your viewing profile from the beginning which can be dangerous for impressionable, young minds. Apart from making it very addictive, they can be exposed to:

  • Inappropriate content – from dangerous challenges, sex and nudity, violence, and war propaganda  
  • Exposure to sexual predators – either within the platform or through revealing personal identification and location information within videos
  • Cyberbullying 
  • Harmful to self esteem

How can you protect your tween or teen on TikTok?

There are some simple steps to take to make TikTok safer for your tween or teen. 

  1. Set up TikTok’s Family Pairing  that allows parents to link their TikTok account to their child’s and customise their safety settings.
  2. Set an agreed upon daily usage time limit
  3. Disable the Direct Message function
  4. Set the audience that can interact with their posts: everyone, friends only or no one 

Social media by nature can be social, fun, and engaging but also it can be a minefield to navigate especially for parents, carers, and educators when online safety is of utmost importance.  For more information about safety settings on TikTok click here