On the fence about TikTok for your tween? These five facts might help you decide.
Yep, we know: “everybody has it.” Or so your daughter keeps telling you - and given the staggering popularity of the video-sharing app (one billion monthly users and counting), it may not be much of an exaggeration.
And the truth is, you’ve seen some pretty cute videos on TikTok yourself. And some of the hacks and recipes are amazing. (That feta pasta thing? Incredible!)
So really, you may be thinking, where’s the harm? Sure, there are some goofy challenges that get some kids into trouble. But your child? No way. She’s a good kid. Sensible. Responsible.
Of course you’re tempted to give in. But before you do … consider the facts.
#1 TikTok has an age restriction - for a reason
Like other social media platforms, TikTok’s own age restriction is 13+. Also like other platforms, it has no verification procedures in place to ensure compliance. Kids lie left, right and centre about their ages to get an account. But do you really want your child to be one of them? To start out her social media life, at the age of 8, 9 or 10, with a lie? And a lie, moreover, that her parents sanction?
Then ask yourself, why has the company set an age restriction in the first place? There’s no mystery here. It’s because they know for sure that users will be seeing adult content and hearing profanity.
By setting age restrictions, tech companies are attempting to protect their own reputations as responsible players in the online world - reputations that happen to be under heavy siege right now. Doesn’t your child deserve protection too?
#2 Predators love TikTok as much as kids do
If you think your child would never knowingly interact with a predator, you’re probably right. But what about unknowingly?
Predators may be twisted and evil, but they’re not dumb. Which is why they will often pose as children as they trawl for victims online. And the fact that TikTok doesn’t verify users’ ages (see above), plays right into their hands.
The sad, disturbing truth is that predators flock to the platforms with the most kids. And right now, that’s TikTok.
#3 TikTok has a massive cyberbullying problem
Maybe you associate cyberbullying and body-shaming with Instagram. (You’d be right about that.) Maybe you think TikTok is purely about video-sharing and lip-synching. (You’d be wrong about that.)
The fact is, harmful comments and nasty direct messages - whether by strangers or “friends” - are as much a feature of TikTok as any other platform.
“It has suppressed posts of users deemed ugly, poor, or disabled … and automatically added beauty filters to users’ videos."
And if you’re thinking, well, sooner or later she’ll have to learn how to deal with that, well, sure. But at age nine or 10? Isn’t it your job to try to protect her emotional wellbeing and - let’s be honest - her innocence as long as you can?
#4 TikTok’s algorithm pushes kids toward eating disorders and other harmful content
It's not just body-shaming - though there's plenty of that. Last year, users of all ages were shown a graphic suicide video that went viral. Misinformation and conspiracy theories are rife on TikTok, as they are everywhere else on the internet.
“It has suppressed posts of users deemed ugly, poor, or disabled … and automatically added beauty filters to users’ videos,” notes Evelyn Douek, a senior research fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.
“TikTok says it takes down plenty of these posts, but how it decides which ones is unclear."
#5 You don’t need an account to watch TikToks
You may already have discovered this for yourself. Being a registered user isn’t necessary in order to watch TikTok content. That means if your daughter shares videos of herself, not only can any of TikTok’s billion users can watch her to their heart’s content - so can the rest of the world.
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