Parent Alert! Is TikTok Safe for Kids?
What Parents Need to Know About TikTok and Social Media Challenge Videos
Eleven-year-old Sarah opened up her TikTok app and saw a video of her favorite vlogger (video blogger) acting out a challenge that had gone viral: grab some common ingredients, including bleach (!), mix it up in a plastic Ziploc bag, and hold it against one eye for at least a minute.
The supposed result of the experiment? The eye would change color!
What Sarah didn’t realize is that the creator of this challenge - a 19-year-old college kid - made the video “to show off his editing ability.” In other words, it was a fake and very dangerous joke!
The eye bleach challenge is the latest viral stunt on Tik Tok, one that received 300,000 likes in the first week alone!
Talk to your kids about social media challenge videos - ASAP!
This is a great teaching moment for families. Have you ever talked to your kids about social media challenges? Here’s some discussion starters:
- Have you heard of any of these challenges?
- Have you ever tried one or thought it sounded fun or interesting?
- Why would kids try out a challenge?
- What could happen?
- Are all challenges dangerous? (Hint: The Jello Slime and Bottle Flip Challenges are more positive!)
- How can you decide if it’s a good idea to take a challenge?
Sometimes parents are the ones recording their kids taking these challenges. Think about the message you want kids to internalize. Are they learning to seek attention on social media for approval and self-esteem?
Are they buying into “dare culture?” Today’s challenge might be harmless, but tomorrow it might be downright dangerous.
You could say, “Let’s do a funny challenge together, but we’ll only film it if you want to, and we’ll only share it with family.” CNN
Is the TikTok app safe for kids?
TikTok is a Chinese-owned video-sharing app.
Never heard of it? Well, surprise! TikTok was the 4th most-downloaded app of 2018 worldwide.
Is your tween or teen using the app? Here are some quick tips on what you need to know!
TikTok is used most by young people to post homemade lip-synching and dancing videos using popular music.
If you search YouTube for some of the TikTok video compilations, you’ll see in a few minutes what kind of content is on the platform (search with caution!) Some of it is goofy or silly. But there are also many videos of teens who are posting hyper-sexualized content.
Kids can create their own videos using thousands of popular songs in the app, which can have explicit lyrics.
Predators are watching and can share your child’s content with others. Where children play, predators prey. Unless the right privacy settings are in place, strangers can message your child.
The app is rated 12+ on the Apple store, but there is no way to verify a user’s age, so anyone can download it. In fact, social media app ratings are not the best way to determine if the content is kid-friendly or not! The FixAppRatings movement recommends that TikTok be used only by those over the age of 17.
If your child is using TikTok, there are some parental controls that you should take advantage of right away to reduce the risk of sexual predators finding your child.
Remember that this is one of many apps that features sexually suggestive, crude, and downright pornographic material on its user accounts. The following news story highlights the dangers and threats that come with this particular app:
A Social Media “Spring Clean” Can Protect Your Kids’ Privacy
Spring is a great time to “clean house!” This not only reduces clutter but helps us to move forward with confidence to enjoy the new season.
How about doing some digital clean up of our own social media accounts?
1. Review the privacy settings for each of your social media accounts. Even if you know that you set them to private when you first signed up, make it a habit to do a quarterly check. Privacy policies can change without warning and without you knowing how your data are being tracked and used.
2. Do you know all your followers and friends on social media? Look carefully through your lists and either unfriend or block those you don’t know or don’t feel comfortable having on your account.
As well, our interests change over time, so unfollowing accounts that don’t serve us anymore helps minimize distractions and media overload so that we can focus on the content we do want to see.
3. Be especially careful of posting details that may expose your child’s identity: name, birthday, location, friends, doctor visits. If you post on your municipal or community Facebook page, be careful of unintentionally giving away information about your child, such as his school or sports practices.
4. Be aware of using hashtags with your child’s photos. Hashtags allow your child’s photos to be searchable and makes it easier for predators to find them. Especially when they are tagged with terms like #pottytraining or #bathtime.
Teen voices: Oversharing and your digital footprint
While you are cleaning up your digital feed, share what you are doing with your kids!
Your child may be more tech-savvy in terms of what the latest apps are, but you can model good digital citizenship and help her cultivate some healthy online habits.
Sometimes sharing a video of teens helping other teens can be a good conversation starter. Check this out!
With older kids, it’s great for parents to work and learn together to build trust and help each other navigate the good and not-so-good aspects of technology.
Brain Defense: Digital Safety Curriculum - Family Edition
"Parents are desperate for concepts and language like this to help their children. They would benefit so much from this program - and I think it would spur much needed conversations between parents and children.” --Jenet Erikson, parent