TikTok app safety – What parents need to know

TikTok 'You're In Control' safety videos to promote privacy, safety and positivity to users

TikTok is a social media platform that replaced the popular app when it went offline in 2017. Know as Douyin in China, it gives users the ability to watch and create short clips of up to 60 seconds.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a free social media platform that lets you create, share and watch short clips. The app is popular for viral dances and celebrity cameos and is a creative and fun platform for teens to enjoy.

Currently, the app is available in 75 languages with over 1 billion active users (Jan 2021). Like before it, it is most popular with under-16s. A 2022 Ofcom report found that TikTok is the most popular social media platform for posting content.

TikTok parent and guardian guide from Josh Ochs at
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TikTok safety guide – Get to grips with the e-safety tools available on the app and ways your teen can make the most of their time on the platform.

see guide

What can you find on TikTok?

Short videos up to 60 seconds of everything from popular songs to users dancing, lip-synching, performing comedy sketches, and more.

Example of videos you will find on TikTok platform

Like what we do? Want to support our work?

Visit TikTok Safety Centre to learn more about it’s educational video series, “You’re in Control” – foster a safe, positive environment where users are in control and can express themselves creatively.

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What is the minimum age for TikTok?

13 is the minimum age according to TikTok’s terms and conditions.

How does TikTok work?

Once signed up and logged in, you can either search for popular categories, creators, or known friends, or you can create the videos yourself. But many people just use the app to follow content creators.

How to create an account

Click on the ‘person’ icon and you can choose to sign up with an email, phone number, or existing Google, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account.

Once you have selected an option, you are then asked to enter your date of birth. If it is below the age of 13, the app displays the following message: “Sorry, looks like you’re not eligible for TikTok. But thanks for checking us out!”

Your feed highlights what is going on in your community and a separate ‘For you’ feed shows tailored recommendations for you.

Why do teens love TikTok?

It allows them to express themselves through short-form video clips to gain a following and build a community around their passions.

It also features some great special effects that users can apply to their videos to make them more unique. You can also cross-post the content on other platforms (such as Instagram) to share it with more people.

What do parents say about the app?

Seeing inappropriate content

Parents have expressed concerns about the inappropriate language of some of the videos posted which may make this less suitable for younger children.

Contact from strangers

Predators seeking to connect with children is another privacy and security risk on TikTok. Set up privacy and security settings to limit this contact.

What should parents be concerned about?

  • When you download the app, users can see all the content without creating an account although they are not able to post, like or share anything until they’ve set up an account on the app.
  • By default, all accounts are public so anyone on the app can see what your child shares. However, only approved followers can send them messages.
  • Users can like or react to a video, follow an account or send messages to each other, so there is the risk that strangers will be able to directly contact children on the app.
  • Children may be tempted to take risks to get more of a following or likes on a video so it’s important to talk about what they share and with who.
  • Need to delete your account? Go to Me>Tap , located on the top right corner>Tap Manage account > Delete account. Follow the instructions in the app to delete your account.

Does TikTok have any e-safety features?

Digital Wellbeing

Like Facebook and Instagram, it has a digital wellbeing element (which is password protected) that alerts users who have been on the app for more than two hours. You can also turn on ‘restricted mode’ to filter out inappropriate content on the app.

Private account

You can set an account to be private so that all videos can only be seen by the creator and no one else on the platform. With a private account, you can approve or deny users and limit incoming messages to followers only.

Please note that even with a private account, your child’s profile photo, username, and bio are still visible to all users on the platform. You can manage who can comment, duet and direct message your child on the app.

Privacy settings

TikTok users under 18 will have their accounts set to private-by-default, which means only someone who the user approves as a follower can view their videos. The change is part of a wider package of measures designed to drive higher standards of user privacy and safety. Download the updated privacy settings here.

Internet Matters CEO Carolyn Bunting says: “The safety of children and young people online needs to be a priority for organisations across the industry.

The disabling of direct messaging on the TikTok platform for under 16s is a significant move in prioritising the safety of their young users and we are pleased to see the protection of their younger users taking precedence in their product changes.

TikTok provides fantastic opportunities to be creative and have fun, especially in these unprecedented times and it is encouraging to see them invest in a number of initiatives that help to create a safer environment for young people.”

Check out our TikTok privacy and safety parental controls to learn more.

Latest TikTok updates

June 2022:

TikTok has announced plans to support screen time management with new prompts to promote breaks. This complements the already-existing features that allow users to set daily limits for themselves. The screen time dashboard will also let users view their usage statistics to see how they spend their time in-app. This feature comes after our research with TikTok that found young people would like help to independently manage their screen time. Learn more about the upcoming feature here.

As of Jan 2021, the following features have been implemented:

  • New privacy and security settings: TikTok users under 18 will have their accounts set to private-by-default (as of Jan 2021) as mentioned above.
  • Tackling fake news and misinformation: A new fact-check feature that will confirm and remove content if false (as of Feb 2021). Read more here.
  • Prevention of bullying feature: Creators are now able to control what comments can be posted on their content before it goes live. In addition, users who comment will get a prompt advising them to reconsider their comment if it’s inappropriate (as of March 2021). Read more here.
  • Tightening the options for commenting on videos created by those ages 13-15: Younger users can now choose between “friends” or “no one,” and the “everyone” comment setting is being removed.
  • Changing Duet and Stitch settings: The broader TikTok community won’t be able to use those features with content created by people under 16, though anyone can Duet and Stitch with eligible content from users over 16. For users aged 16-17, the default setting for these features will now be set to Friends.
  • Removing the ability to download videos created by those under 16: For users ages 16-17, this function will now be set to “off” by default, with the option to allow downloads of videos if a user chooses.
  • Setting “suggest your account to others” to “off” by default for accounts ages 13-15.
  • Bedtime block on app alerts – TikTok has announced a feature that prevents teenagers from receiving notifications past their bedtime. They will no longer send notifications after 9 pm to users 13-15 years old. But for 16 and 17 year-olds, notifications will not be sent after 10 pm.

How to report inappropriate content on the TikTok app?

You can report content that doesn’t follow TikTok’s Community Guidelines within the app, click here to find out how to do it on the app.

You can block followers ‘ by choosing the fan you’d like to remove and selecting ‘Block’ from the menu of options.

Be sure to update the TikTok app to ensure you are kept up to date with the latest features.

Parental controls

Learn how to set privacy and safety settings on the TikTok social platform to help your child have a safer experience.
Internet Matters TikTok guide

See guide
TikTok Playbook light-bulb

Learn how to use TikTok safely and effectively as a teacher for resources, activities and teaching tips.


Things you can do to keep them safe on the app

1. Talk to them about Cyberbullying

Users can leave comments on videos posted so, this may leave your child open to receiving negative messages. Giving them guidance about what to do if they are cyberbullied or see others being cyberbullied will help them to keep themselves safe.

2. Set their TikTok account to private

Go to their account profile page and tap on the three dots in the top right corner.  Then select “Privacy and Settings”.  From the options select  “Privacy and Safety” options and toggle “Private Account” on / off.

3. Make sure they are Share Aware

Help them to think more carefully about what they post and who it may be seen by so that they protect themselves.

4. Get familiar with the community guidelines

To make sure you know what is and isn’t accepted on the app you and your child can read through the community guidelines to help them to be informed about what they can and can’t do on the app.

5. Be aware of explicit songs on the app

Some of the songs featured on the TikTok app may have explicit language and sexual content that may not suitable for your child. It is best to review the app together with your child beforehand.

6. Turn on Digital Wellbeing settings on TikTok app

Enable Digital Wellbeing. You can also enable the Restricted Mode.

7. Know how and when to report

You can report any inappropriate, abusive Live, video, comment or anything else on the platform here.

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