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Is TikTok Safe For Kids?


    The question of whether a colossal online platform like TikTok which is both notoriously hated and loved is safe for kids is not so easy to answer. The problem is that massive platforms like TikTok can be unsafe, however, they are also revolutionary for society and can be said to be beneficial in several ways. Such broad questions need to be looked at through the lens of the grand scheme of things. Namely, before criticizing dominant and disruptive mediums like social media platforms, there is much to consider. It is that technology has always had its upsides and downsides. An upside to technology like social media is that we have never been as connected or able to share so much information. One downside can be said to be the impact on mental health in the sense of social media addiction, for instance. 

    It is important to realize that there are over five billion of us using the internet for hours on end, every day, across several billion devices. A large chunk of this sample are kids and young teens for whom being without the internet would be like taking away their lives. As such, it is difficult to distill whether what many consider the most influential social media platform on Earth, TikTok, is safe for our younger generations. Certainly, there are issues with both safety and privacy. The consensus is certainly that notoriously free and, some would say, unfiltered platforms like TikTok are a great safety risk for the young ones among us. TikTok is one among a few social media platforms out there, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Discord.

    Let’s take a look at a bit of background on the massive digital playground known as TikTok, and dice into the dangers of TikTok for kids as confirmed by sociologists, psychiatrists, and cybersecurity and privacy experts around the world.

    What is TikTok?

    TikTok is one of the most downloaded social media applications in the world (in 2020, it sat at the number one spot.) TikTok is a social media platform, most often used as a mobile app, where users can create trendy and eye-catching short-form videos. Users can add filters, songs, effects, and more to these videos as well as collaborate with other creators. TikTok also allows users to make money off of videos given that they have the popularity level required.

    In 2021, users aged between 10 and 19 made up a quarter of TikTok’s users. This comes as no surprise as TikTok is one of the favorite mobile apps for the younger generation with its endless stream of scrollable video content, social media stars, and hype. To better distinguish TikTok from its competitors like Instagram and YouTube, it is important to note that TikTok’s user base and style of content are quite different. Namely, TikTok content is known to be less filtered and can even contain profane and illicit content from which several scandals have arisen. This is, of course, yet another danger for children and younger generations.

    What Are the Dangers of TikTok for Kids?

    There are several dangers to using TikTok for kids. First of all, TikTok allows the use of songs that may contain profane language or sexual content. Statistically, TikTok also offers a lot more inappropriate adult content than other platforms making it the most unrestrained platform out there. TikTok is also a platform that operates blindingly fast, with likes from other users, comments, and famous TikTok “challenges” rolling in coercing users into various situations all the time. TikTok can be said to be the most impulsive platform out there which, as a result, produces dangerous side effects.

    Furthermore, TikTok’s unfiltered and mostly chaotic and uncontrolled nature makes the platform vulnerable to predators and cyberbullying. Unfortunately, safety threats like sexual exploitation and content harmful to kids’ mental health are still out there.

    Yet another technical issue is the question of data security. How secure is TikTok’s data and how private is it? Well, the company is run by a China-based holding that does not have the same cybersecurity and privacy laws as companies in the United States do. The company has since paid millions of dollars due to privacy complaints and user data collection. Because TikTok operates under the umbrella of China, rules and regulations are different. It gets quite complicated when most of TikTok’s users are in the West. For this reason, TikTok has faced scrutiny from the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and several other entities.

    To counter these problems, TikTok created a “Younger Users” version of the app for kids under the age of 13. However, this does not mean that these kids cannot access the regular version of the app by fooling the system.

    When it comes to keeping your kids safe on massive and unfiltered social media networks like TikTok, you should think about getting to know the app and connecting to it with the “Family Pairing” feature. You should also look at setting up parental control features. Securing your kids’ TikTok accounts is extremely important, meaning using good passwords, not allowing them to share personal details, and monitoring what your kids are doing on TikTok.

    You also need to talk to your young ones about safety concerns and privacy concerns on TikTok so they are aware of what can happen. This also means talking in-depth about addiction in a positive way and that dangerous people reside on social media platforms.

    Most young people use TikTok on smartphones. In the app itself, you can look at adjusting the following options;

    ● Discoverability

    ● Safety

    ● Personalization and data

    ● Security and login

    Beyond that, you and your kids should understand how to block and report TikTok content. In the app, it is possible to select “Report” on a video when you tap and hold a video or comment. You can also block content by going to the offending account’s profile page and selecting “Report” from the three dots at the top right corner.

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