“Please can I have TikTok”, said every eight year old, everywhere!
Unless you are living under a rock, it’s TikTok around the clock in every house with kids, tweens and teens all over the world. But should you as parents be worried about your kids being on the most visited internet site of 2022? Why is it so darn popular and is it even possible to use it safely? Here is what you need to know.
‘Pleeeez all my friends have got it”, is the dinner time soundtrack so many parents have come to dread. It is usually followed by incessant nagging, bargaining (“it’s only videos with music mom”, “I won’t post mom, I just want to look at the baking mom”)… and, of course, ultimately the temper tantrum that makes you throw your hands in the air and surrender. And while the App has been set up so that users need to be 13 to enjoy the full TikTok experience, we are aware of the huge popularity of this app amongst tweens and young kids.
What’s the appeal of TikTok?
So what makes it all so darn appealing? Simply stated, it has the constant element of surprise. There is the ‘for you’ section of trending videos based on your interests, and its short format caters to our kids’ short attention spans and wish to be instantly gratified with something ‘new’ all the time.
The other factor is that it appears quite easy for ordinary kids to achieve ‘TikTok fame’. Gone are the days of ‘I want to be doctor, hairdresser or marine biologist’ – the most desired profession recently researched in tweens appears to be that of an online influencer! And TikTok makes it look like that is possible for each and every one of its viewers. It takes only a few minutes of scrolling on TikTok for our eight-year-olds to flick their hair like Charli D’Amelio, dance like Addison Rae, and smile coyly like “The Yeet Baby” – all ordinary teens who achieved fame and huge wealth from TikTok.
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So what’s the big deal?
Copying the moves and mouths of a few teen stars is a given. And, of course, that leads to our little ones uploading hundreds of their own cute dances. And these we know are often very sexualised dances that our kids may or may not do intentionally. What is clear is that they hope their moves will draw the ‘likes’ and affirmation that TikTok provides. In turn, that creates a craving for more likes and more affirmation and pretty soon it can be out of control.
So while TikTok is a creative outlet that allows kids to be themselves and be authentic, as opposed to the often extremely filtered and highly curated content on Instagram, or the hotbed of hate and sexy streaks that can easily be found on Snap Chat, the 12+ age-restriction is there for a reason that goes beyond just how addictive it is designed to be.
Should parents be worried about TikTok?
All the concerns we have about social media apply to Tiktok – predators go where children hang out, and this is the playground of the digital age. With all the lip-synching and lip gloss, our children are often oblivious to just how inviting they look to creepy people online.
And if not a predator, just a complete stranger commenting on your child’s latest dance routine can expose her to fat-shaming, racist comments and trolling.
“I won’t let her post anything, surely that’s safe”, we hear you say. Of course, that is one step up on the emotional safety barometer but it is clear that they will still be watching whatever comes their way. And boy does some serious stuff come their way:
- Filming the pushing people out of fake windows
- Licking the inside of teachers masks
- The one chip challenge – forcing young kids to eat one chip doused in hot chilli sauce
- Playing songs with lots of swearing and getting your parent’s reaction on video.
- Filming each other teasing your male teachers by bending over in front of them.
- The Plank challenge aimed at allowing people to see down a girl’s shirt in a lot of the videos.
We could go on and on. And then the fact that your child can get paid for pictures of her feet, underwear, sports bra… tempting for any child looking to make some extra pocket money.
So given all of the ‘bad stuff’ on TikTok, can it still be used safely? How do you as parents navigate this tricky terrain without being an ogre, but still making sure your favourite short people are safe and responsible online?
TikTok: tips to keep your child safe
TikTok actually does a much better job of providing safety features than most other social media apps! For a quick run-down on how to implement them check out this helpful guide.
With the above in mind, here are FOUR SIMPLE ‘To Dos’ before letting your child go down the TikTok rabbit hole:
1. Make sure the child’s birth date is correctly entered when they download the app
Do it with them – it’s an old child trick to say you are 13 when you are not to get around downloading an age-restricted app. A birth date indicating your child is 8 will keep their ‘for you page’ much more sanitised – children may not like this, but it could be a good compromise. It will also directly disable direct messaging, which means your child won’t be receiving DM’s from strangers.
2. Talk to them before they get TikTok about what might come their way
From ‘accidental’ porn, to creepy predators, and dangerous challenges, and about the type of content they should and shouldn’t be posting. For some really great conversation starters on these ‘hard to talk about’ topics check out KLIKD’s free downloadable eBook.
3. Use Family Pairing on TikTok
The app allows parents to link their own accounts to their child’s, to enable a very comprehensive set of content and privacy settings, such as creating a private account, restricting content types and setting time limits. Parents can also choose whether their kids’ account can be liked, commented on and recommended to others. Through Family Pairing, parents can also turn off messaging, or restrict who can send direct messages to their child (Direct Messaging is automatically disabled for teens under 16). The KLIKD guide explains how to set up Family Pairing.
4. Be clear on what you want them to do when they see inappropriate content
Explain that you will never be angry with them for telling you and that you won’t just remove their device if they tell you. Instead, you will discuss what they saw to make sense of it together. Ultimately, our goal as parents is to empower our kids to recognise what is healthy content and what is not.
We can’t hold them back from the digital age and giving them the tools to manage their digital world is far more valuable than removing them from it all together. The KLIKD App has loads of interactive video quizzes, WhatsApp simulations and live interviews that keep our kids engaged as they upskill themselves to be their best selves in the digital world. Check out the KLIKD app by clicking HERE