TikTok just got safer ... in theory

Young people can’t get enough of TikTok - and with good reason. But it makes parents nervous - also with good reason. Now, the app has launched a range of safety features designed to address mounting privacy and abuse concerns. 

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, TikTok was dominating the teen social media space. Today, with more than 100 million users worldwide, the free video-sharing app reigns supreme - its popularity surging on the back of school closures and other restrictions. 

But parents have been understandably anxious about the app, as recent investigations have found kids as young as eight being groomed and bombarded by explicit messages.

In theory, the TikTok's new features will address some of these concerns, allowing parents to control their kids’ in-app screen-time, restrict direct messaging and block some content. The question is: what real difference will these new features make? 

Commonsense Media describes TikTok as “an interactive world of videos that lets you connect with friends and admirers through likes, comments and even duets.”  Users can create short, shareable videos, or record and watch videos of themselves lip-synching to popular music. 

tiktokgif

Sounds like fun, right? And it is - huge fun. That’s the first point to understand. There’s a reason kids - and increasingly adult users too - find TikTok so engaging. Its content is fast, furious and often genuinely funny.

But there’s a darker side to TikTok as well. Last year, the company was walloped with the biggest fine in the history of the US Federal Trade Commission - $5.7 million - for violating child privacy regulations. And the app has been widely recognised as as a magnet for paedophiles and predators. 

Public accounts by default

All TikTok accounts are public by default - and that means any one of the app’s 100 million users can watch your child’s videos. Even more concerning, they can also send them direct messages and use their location information. The new safety features - known collectively as “Family Pairing,” attempt to address those risks.

Age restrictions

TikTok has always had age restrictions. Account holders must be 13 and older, and those under 18 need parental permission. 

Under the new safety features, direct messaging has been turned off, by default, for under 16s. 

How is any of this enforced? The short answer is, it’s not. Again, all kids need to do is enter a false birthdate and they’re in. 

 

The new parental controls

The new features can be enabled on your child’s phone and protected with a passcode. Or, parents can create their own TikTok account to manage their child’s usage. 

Either on your child’s app or your own, tap the three dots at the top right of the user profile. Select “Digital Wellbeing.” You’ll see the following features:

Screen Time Management  Here you can decide how much time your child can spend on the app, up to two hours per day.

Restricted Mode  In theory, this blocks mature content, but cyber experts note that the workings of restricted mode are at best fuzzy but it seems to rely entirely on users flagging inappropriate videos. In other words, this feature is not the equivalent of setting parental controls on Netflix or the App Store.

Family Pairing  This option lets you control the settings above, and also disable direct messaging, by synching your account to your child’s. It needs to be set up on your child’s phone, using the Digital Wellbeing screen.

Can kids bypass these controls?

Yes they can - easily. All they need to do is re-download the app and create a new account using a different phone number or email address.

The verdict

While welcoming any effort to protect young users, cyber experts have criticised TikTok’s latest safety features as a case of too little too late. They maintain developers ought to have considered children’s safety before launching the app, instead of applying a band-aid after the inevitable damage has occurred.

The company maintains “Promoting a safe and positive app experience is our top priority,” and points to its in-app Safety Centre, which offers a library of educational resources for users and their families. 

“We also encourage parents to have an open dialogue with their children about how to be responsible and safe in all online activities.”

In-app parental controls can only take you so far - and that usually means not far enough.

Use Family Zone to manage TikTok and other apps and games seamlessly, from your own device - and create a home where digital children thrive.

Find out how, and start your free trial today!

 

 

Tell me more!

Topics: Parental Controls, Screen time, Mobile Apps, online safety, online predators, privacy, tiktok

    Try Family Zone for FREE

    Sign up now to try Family Zone for 1 month, totally free of charge.

    Free Trial
    Subscribe to our newsletter
    Follow us on social media
    Popular posts
    Parental Controls | Cyber Safety | Cyber Experts | parenting | roblox
    Roblox: What parents need to know about this popular gaming platform
    Parental Controls | Mobile Apps | Cyber Safety | teens on social media
    Can we talk? 100 questions your teen might actually answer
    Parental Controls | Screen time | youtube | smartphones | WhatsApp | suicide | self-harm | momo
    MOMO unmasked
    Cyber Bullying | Parental Controls | Screen time | Mobile Apps | Cyber Safety | online predators | tiktok | paedophile | child predator | Likee
    LIKEE: What parents need to know about this risky TikTok wannabe
    Parental Controls | Screen time | online gaming | roblox | sleep
    Family Zone: Now blocking Roblox with a single click
    Parental Controls | Screen time | teens on social media | wellbeing | dating app
    Swipe right for trouble: Six teen dating apps parents need to know about

    Recent posts

     
    Press the reset button on your kid’s online routine

    COVID blew up our teens’ screen-time. It’s time to get them back on track. In the wake of the COVID pandemic, our children are facing a ...

     
    Bigger families face super-sized screen-time challenges

    If you have more than one child - and statistics show 86 percent of families do - then managing screen-time can be double trouble. Or ...

     
    'Bigorexia' a growing risk for today's boys

    We’re starting to understand how social media can damage girls’ self-esteem - but what about our boys? New research finds disturbing ...

     
    The metaverse: Brave new world - or an upgrade for predators?

    Mixing kids and adult strangers in a self-moderated online environment ... What could possibly go wrong?