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Tik Tok

TikTok, formerly known as Musical.ly, is a short form video sharing app that allows users to create and share 1-3 minute videos on any topic. This social media platform allows users to add music, effects and filters to enhance their videos and its simple design means users can record and upload their content easily.  TikTok is an incredibly popular platform and currently has over 800 million active users worldwide. The popular ‘Live’ function of TikTok allows users to share in real time and the ‘Duet’ feature means users can instantly record and share their reactions to the videos of other users.

Official age rating

The minimum age for TikTok users is 13, however,  it does not have any rigorous age verification methods.

All accounts set up by users under 16 will automatically default to private. This default setting relies on users providing their correct date of birth, showing them as under 16 so it is useful for parents to make sure their children are using their correct date of birth to benefit from this safety feature.

Find out more about age ratings in our A parent and carer’s guide to age ratings of apps and games.

How children and young people use the app

TikTok is a hugely popular video-based app, largely due to the variety of content it provides – from trending dances and funny moments to curated videos from young people’s favourite content creators. The platform is often used by celebrities, influencers and many people have found fame purely through the app, making it especially appealing for young people who wish to gain popularity online. It is used both as a creative outlet for young people but also a place to engage and connect with others around the world through livestreams and comments. With an easy-to-use design and a personalised feed based on your existing online activity and interests, it can be a very appealing app for young people to spend significant amounts of time.

Potential risks

Content

The TikTok platform presents a number of content risks including the risks of being exposed to violent content, hate speech, suicide and self-harm, and misinformation.  The platform is designed to serve users the kinds of content that they are interested in so unless they are actively searching for harmful content it is likely that most young TikTok users will be offered content that is not generally harmful, that interests them and which is fun and entertaining (for example fashion, dancing and comedy).  However, because the content is user generated and continually updated by users there is still the risk of exposure to adult themed or harmful content described above, for example through a video that goes viral that might feature violence or harm.  There is also a risk that if a child is interested in harmful content (perhaps due to other vulnerabilities) and searches for it on TikTok there are few safeguards to prevent them finding it.   As a parent it is worth being familiar with safety features (including restricted mode) which is available on the platform and described below.

Connecting with others

There are millions of TikTok users worldwide so it important that your child uses the settings to manage their contacts and their privacy.  There are a range of settings available to help manage interactions for younger users. Accounts for under 16s should default to private but it is still important that users under 16 know how to limit their contacts in settings to those who are known friends and try to ensure that they do not change these settings without realising the consequences, for example because they want broader exposure to get more followers. If your child is using TikTok in the ‘Public’ function, speak to them about the risks of connecting with strangers. Remind users to tell you if they have been asked personal questions, to share personal information, to chat privately using a different app or anything that has made them feel uncomfortable.

The live streaming feature of TikTok is very popular and many account holders over 16 may want to stream their own live content. Livestreaming can feel exciting and fun and in the moment, however other users may try to pressure, persuade or manipulate younger users in to doing something inappropriate which they may later regret. Have a conversation with your child to remind them to be careful about engaging with people when live streaming and to end the session and speak to an adult if at any point they feel uncomfortable.

User behaviour

As a platform that encourages comment and engagement TikTok users can sometime be exposed to unkind comments or reactions to the content they post and share.  Features such as ‘Duet’ have a real potential to allow children and young people to make or receive unkind reaction responses.  We know that the online environment generally can reduce the empathy of face to face interaction and expose children to a world in which reactions, likes or nasty comments can be made rapidly without those posting them seeing or reflecting on their impact. There is a risk of children being drawn into and desensitised to bullying through exposure in this way.  It is important to talk to your child about how they behave towards others online and how they react and respond to content. Encourage them to think about how a comment or post would make them feel if they were on the receiving end of it before they share it.

Design, data and costs

TikTok is a highly compelling and engaging platform and children and young people sometimes spend many hours at a time scrolling through the diverse continually changing range of content.  The platform is designed to keep users engaged and interested and children and young people often do not have the skills to successfully self- regulate and take time and space out.  If your child is a is spending a lot of time on TikTok consider agreeing time limits and boundaries that allow them to balance their enjoyment of the platform with other activities.  You may wish to use the digital wellbeing feature in the settings (described below) which enables users to limit screen time.


Tips for keeping your child safe

  • Users under 16 should already benefit from the private default safety setting, but it is worth checking the account settings.

    To set an account to private:

    • Go to the ‘Profile’ section on the app and tap the three lines in the top right-hand corner.
    • Select ‘Privacy’ from the ‘Settings and privacy’ menu.
    • Toggle the ‘Private account’ option at the top of the page.
  • The content on TikTok is moderated and content that does not meet their community guidelines is taken down from the platform. To reduce the risk of younger users from accessing mature content, it is worthwhile enabling ‘Restricted mode’ on the app.

    To enable ‘Restricted mode’:

    • Go to the ‘Profile’ section on the app and tap the three lines in the top right-hand corner.
    • Select the ‘Digital wellbeing’ section on the ‘Settings and privacy’ menu.
    • Go on to the ‘Restricted mode’ section and tap ‘Turn on restricted mode’.
    • You will be asked to set a password which you will need to enter to disable this function.
  • You can report and block users who may be behaving inappropriately on the platform. Whilst  content on TikTok is monitored to ensure it meets the community guidelines, it is possible that you may still encounter inappropriate videos, which should be reported to TikTok.

    To report or block users:

    • Go to the profile of the user you would like to block and tap the three dots in the top right-hand corner.
    • Select either of the ‘Report’ or ‘Block’ options from the menu.
    • For both options, you will be asked to give a brief description of the problem and complete a few more steps to complete the process.

    To report content:

    • Select the video you wish to report either in your feed or the user’s profile.
    • Choose the Share button which is shaped like an arrow.
    • Select the ‘Report’ option which is shaped like a flag.
    • You will be asked to give a brief description of the problem and complete a few more steps to complete the process.
  • TikTok offers the ability to set daily screen time limits in the ‘Digital wellbeing’ feature of the app.

    To set time limits:

    • Go to the ‘Profile’ section on the app and tap the three lines in the top right-hand corner.
    • Select the ‘Digital wellbeing’ section on the ‘Settings and privacy’ menu.
    • Go on to the ‘Screen time management’ section and tap ‘Turn on screen time management’.
    • Set the daily time limit in the box provided.
    • You will be asked to set a password which you will need to enter to disable this function. If you have enabled ‘Restricted mode’, it will be the same password.
  • The ‘Family pairing’ feature of TikTok allows parents to set up various restrictions on their child’s device. Both parent and child will need a TikTok account to use this feature.

    To set up family pairing:

    • Go to the ‘Profile’ section on the app and tap the three lines in the top right-hand corner.
    • Select the ‘Digital wellbeing’ section on the ‘Settings and privacy’ menu and select the ‘Family pairing’ option.
    • On both devices, select whether the account is being used by a ‘Parent’ or ‘Teen’.
    • On the parent device, select ‘Continue’ which will produce a QR code on the screen.
    • Hold the teen device above the QR code and select ‘Scan the QR Code’ on the teen device and select ‘Link accounts’ once the code has been scanned.
    • ‘Family pairing’ will now ben enabled.
    • On the parent device, you will have options for ‘Restricted mode’ and ‘Screen time management’ as well as ‘Direct messages’.
    • The teen will be able to see what options the parent has set but will not be able to change them on their own.
    • To remove ‘Family pairing’ select the option at the bottom of the page on the parent device.

Key features and terminology

  • For You Page (#fyp

    The ‘For you’ page is a feed with recommended videos for users based on their existing viewing habits and popular trends on the platform. Users and their content can only feature on the ‘For you’ page if the account holder is over 16.

    Following

    When users ‘Follow’ other accounts on the platform, a following page is created. This section will only show the videos from the accounts the user has chosen to follow.

    Live

    The ‘Live’ feature is only available to users over 16 who have at least 1000 followers. It allows users to record a live video which is streamed on the platform in real time.

    Trending Hashtags

    This is how the platform groups together its most popular videos at one time. When users upload their content, they can add a hashtag (#) to their video. This allows other users to search for content they might like.

    Challenges

    This refers to users recording themselves doing a ‘challenge’, usually something that is difficult or risky which they share to encourage others to repeat.   They can be songs, activities or dances that start trending and then get copied by other users. Some are spontaneous whilst others are planned by brands, celebrities or influencers for marketing purposes.

    Duet

    The app’s ‘Duet’ features allows users to record their reactions to or commentary on a specific video already posted on TikTok. This duet feature means users can film a short video directly beside the original video they are responding to.

    Stitch

    Allows users to use scenes and snippets of other videos in their own videos.

    Favourites

    Users can save videos, hashtags, sounds and products to their favourites to watch and use later.

General tips

TikTok has a designated ‘Guardians Guide’ which is worth exploring to find out more about the app and their recommendations for parents.