If you have a daughter under 15, chances are she is using TiKTok! Since launching in 2017, Tik Tok has grown massively and was the most downloaded App in 2018, gathering over 194million downloads across the iTunes and Google Play networks. TikTok is an App created in China and designed as an international peer to the massively popular Douyin App, which is based solely in China. In its first 12 months, TikTok failed to gather much momentum, so the designers purchased rival Chinese App 'Musical.ly' which had already gained massive popularity in the USA, Asia and Europe. In mid 2018 and literally overnight, Musical.ly changed to TikTok and since then it has not missed a beat!
TikTok is a simple App, free to download on IOS and Android. Once you have created an account you can record a video of yourself singing, dancing or lip-syncing to a selection of audio clips. Each video lasts between 3 to 15 seconds and can then be shared across the TikTok network, either privately to your followers or publicly to everyone across the TikTok network. Users must be over the age of 12 to use TikTok, but a large percentage of the 10 to 12 year olds I speak to, are using it. They should not be, but they are.
I do not recommend TikTok to anyone under the age of 13, as it can expose users to bullying and predatory behaviour. It is rare nudity or sexual content is viewable on the network, but many of the videos displayed are very sexually suggestive and some of the language and comments made on videos are very offensive. As such, it is important parents steer away from TikTok if they do not have strict levels of control or access to their childs device.
In a base sense, the TikTok interface is well designed and if used with an appropriate level of safety and security, can be a fun way to interact with your peers. However, like all social networking Apps TikTok offers very limited levels of protection for the safety of users and is questionable in regard to its collection of user data.
In 2019, TikTok was investigated by the European Union for breaches of the GDPR in relation to how it collected the data of children under the age of 13 who were using the App. More recently (July 2020), there has been a push by a number of countries to consider a ban of the App within their regions (USA, India, Europe, Australia & Singapore), due to concerns that data collected by the App could be shared with political parties within China.
With the onset of COVID19, TikTok users have almost doubled within Australia rising from 3.6million log ins per day in February, to almost 7.1 million per day in July. The recent Black Lives Matter protests in the USA has also had a significant impact on TikTok's user base, with a large percentage of posted videos coming from protests across that country.
By default, TikTok accounts are set to public, so when a user adds a video to their account, anyone on TikTok can see it. It is therefore important to change the account settings to 'Private', this way any content posted can only be seen by that users followers. It should be noted that even if a users account is set to private, others can still see their bio, username and account photo, so it is important not to include any identifiable information within those areas. Sadly though, many younger TikTok users will not use private accounts because they want to increase the number of 'likes' on their videos. The drive to become 'TikTok Famous' is a continual desire for many users.
When any person posts a video online, other users will judge and criticise that person because of how they look, what they wear or how they are acting. As such, TikTok has one of the highest levels of reported incidents of Cyber Bullying across the USA. People can be very brutal and this is a major reason why younger users should lock down to private accounts. One of the main concerns for me as a dad and uncle is the predatory aspect of TikTok. Many of our young girls are sharing quite innocent videos of themselves with their friends and followers where they are dancing and having fun, assuming it is similar type users who are looking at them. Sadly (especially if the account is public), this is very often not the case.
A great number of the videos posted by young girls show them wearing bathers or revealing clothing. In a very high percentage of videos, young girls are seen wearing just their pyjamas. Most girls are not posting such videos with any sexual intent at all, however there are a massive number of predators on the network who are looking at these young girls and what they are wearing and then trying to make contact with them for interaction of a sexual nature. This is what worries most parents.
It is therefore very important to have conversations with our daughters about how they use TikTok, what they are wearing and especially about how far their videos can go and just who may be looking at them. This will help in reducing risk and raising awareness.