TikTok app safety – What parents need to know

By Internet Matters Team on

This social network app is from the creators of Musical.ly. As Musical.ly officially went offline earlier this year, TikTok (known as Douyin in China) has taken its place offering the user the ability to watch musical clips, create short clips up to 60 seconds and add special effects to them.

All the content that was hosted on Musical.ly is now on TikTok. So if your child had a Musical.ly account they will now be able to access this content on TikTok.

A summary of TikTok app from Smart Social’s Josh Ochs

About the App

What is TikTok?

It’s a social media app that gives users the opportunity to share 60 second short videos with friends, family or the entire world. Like Twitter-owned Vine and Musical.ly before it, videos shared range from funny sketches to lip-sync videos featuring special effects. Currently, the app is available in 34 languages with 150 million active users. Like Musical.ly before it, it is most popular with under 16s.

What can you find on the app?

Videos featuring comedy sketches or lip-syncs featuring the latest songs or voices over extracts from films.

What is the minimum age for TikTok app?

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

How does TikTok work?

When you download the app, you can instantly see the videos that others have posted on the channel but are not able to share or post anything until you have set up your own account.

How to create an account

Click on the ‘person’ icon and you can choose to sign up with an email, phone 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 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 recommendation for you.

There is also a digital wellbeing element which alerts users who have been on the app for more than 2 hours

Why do teens love TikTok?

It is a way to express themselves and create 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 to share it with more people.

Can you live stream on TikTok?

Like some other platforms, to go live on TikTok you need to have at least 1,000 followers. Once you reached this number of followers you will see an option to go live to your a select few or everyone on the platform.

What do other parents say about the app?

Seeing inappropriate content

Parents have expressed concern around the inappropriate language of some of the video posted which may make this less suitable for younger children.

Contact from strangers

Predators seeking to connect with children is another risk that parents have said their children.
For more insight on parent review, visit Common Sense Media.

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.

You can set up your account by using your existing Google, Facebook, Instagram account, via email or phone.

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. There is the risk that strangers will be able to directly contact children on the app.  However, TiTok’s messenger has 2 available privacy settings for the messenger are either OFF or FRIENDS which means a random person cannot start messaging a user unless they are mutually following each other on the platform.

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.

There are some hashtags on the platform that may break community guidelines by promoting inappropriate or self-harm behaviour. Although TikTok monitors these trending hashtag to take them down, they rely on their users to make a report to make sure these can be taken down.

To delete an account you have to request a code from the app using a phone number.

Does Tik Tok have any safety features?

Like Facebook and Instagram, it has a digital wellbeing element (which is password protected) which alerts users who have been on the app for more than 2 hours. You can also turn on ‘restricted mode’ to filter out inappropriate content on the app.

Also, 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.

TikTok has created a series of simple videos to explain how to utilise their safety settings to give your child a safer experience on the platform. Watch TikTok video tips safety series.

How to report inappropriate content on the TikTok app?

You can report content that doesn’t follow TikTok’s community guidelines within the app.

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

What do TikTok creators say about their app?

Promoting a safe and positive app experience is our top priority and we have a number of protective measures in place to protect against misuse. Users can make their account private, which lets them approve or deny followers and restricts their uploaded content and incoming messages to followers only. We have deployed technology that helps to automatically filter suspicious comments and also have a dedicated and growing team of human moderators to manually cross-review, remove any inappropriate content and terminate accounts that violate our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines.

As outlined in our community guidelines, TikTok strictly prohibits any sexually explicit content featuring minors or content that sexually exploits minors. We will remove any inappropriate content and terminate accounts that violate our community guidelines and term of services. Protecting against misuse is a challenge our industry faces globally. We recognize that no system can prevent all instances of inappropriate activity, but we are committed to continually improving our safety features and localizing moderation efforts to ensure a safe, welcoming and positive community environment for our users. For more, please visit our Safety Center.

Parental controls

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

TikTok privacy settings guide

7 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 private

Go to their account profile page and tap on the top right corner three dots.  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 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 

To enable “Digital Wellbeing” select the three dots from the right-hand corner. From the options select “Digital Wellbeing” under the app settings.  Tap “Turn on” and set a passcode and toggle “Screen Time Management”.

You can also set the “Restricted Mode’ in the same way to restrict inappropriate content on the app.

More to Explore

If you’d like to learn more about the TikTok app and other similar apps, here are some places you can visit:

TikTok app guide for parents from Smart Social

Short video service Musical.ly merging into sister app TikTok

How to set privacy settings on TikTok