One thing that almost all of us have in common right now…we are home a lot more than we used to be. Enter…the world of Tik Tok. Read on for a review of the pros and cons of this popular app from a parent and user.
With parks, museums, and basically anything public closed off due to COVID, many of us are searching for time to fill. I’m not even going to lie, as a major extrovert, sometimes I feel like I am more bored than my kids.
It’s not that I have nothing to do. Between homeschooling 3 kids at three different grade levels, the endless cooking, and other household tasks, I have plenty around the house “to do”. But sometimes, you just need an escape.
Formerly known as musical.ly (and a few other names along the way), Tik Tok is one of the most popular apps among teens with just over 1.5 billion total downloads. It’s among many of the apps that have replaced social media platforms that we as “older” users have taken over.
Parents took over Facebook, so younger generations moved on to Instagram, our presence became known there, and suddenly Tik Tok ignites. Inevitably, it too will one day be replaced by something newer.
What is Tik Tok?
This karaoke type app allows users to record themselves lip singing to trendy songs, tunes, and even homemade dialogues. Due to current circumstances, the app has recently been taken over by 30 something moms to showcase life at home during the quarantine.
And I won’t even lie, I have literally had tears streaming down my face from laughter at some of them. But laughter and fun aside, how safe is the widely popular app for kids, teens, and even us as adults?
Tik Tok in the news recently
Tik Tok has come under major scrutiny lately, especially among federal leaders and employees, due to questions surrounding its foreign ownership.
The NY Times published a piece at the beginning of 2020, highlighting the warning coming from the Pentagon concerning its federal employees and their use of the app. You can read that article here
A few of the cons/insights into the app
Users have the option to create an account that is private or public. Public accounts allow anyone with the app to view and comment on your videos, access your profile, and send you direct, private messages.
If your page is private, your “friends” can see your content and send you messages. But the question arises of “who is really on the other end of that friend’s screen?”
The app provides users with limitless possibilities when editing their short 15-60 second videos. From filters, to colors and text…literally, anything is possible.
The “For You” page is basically a highlight reel of videos. Algorithms within the app track which videos you like, comment, and watch in their entirety in order to create a personalized reel of videos that fit your liking. That means if your teen is liking and watching inappropriate videos, their “For You” feed is most likely full of them.
You can quite literally search ANYthing in the search toolbar. From sound bytes, to users, to lyrics, dances, and genres. As a parent, if there is content you would rather your child not see, this is a tricky one to monitor.
This app is often the breeding ground of “viral challenges”, where users video themselves doing something, often ridiculous, which leads to a firestorm of copycats. For example, the #tidepodchallenge debacle.
Users can “go live” and video themselves in their current place and time. If accounts are public, there is no limit to “who” can view these types of videos.
There is no definitive answer on how much of your personal information can be shared by the app owners and outsourced to other individuals. This could include things like your search history, other apps you purchase, your location, and likely other information.
A Few Pros
I have learned a few tips and tricks from Tik Tok and not all the content is inappropriate. My absolute favorite users to follow are chefs and accounts that focus on recipes. I am a total foodie, and I love that I can be inspired in a quick video that takes less than a minute to watch. But yes, I could easily find this information elsewhere.
There are some awesome reviews on Amazon items, hacks for moms, and videos that make you feel like you’re not the only one trapped during this time.
Used in the right way, it can be great fun for you and your friends or spouse. My husband and I have had a few fun date nights from home recreating videos and laughing until our stomachs hurt; something that is much needed right now
Tik Tok and your kids
Last year I wrote a piece for NNM about tips for raising teens. In it, I highlighted some of the ways we monitor our own daughter’s cell phone usage and provided some tips for moms at home. That article can be found here https://northernnevadamoms.com/tips-for-raising-a-teenager/
I reference that article because so many of the things I talked about when it comes to social media safety, can be referenced and used with Tik Tok.
Most importantly, I will stand by my number one piece of advice, BE INFORMED! The more you know, the more you can make informed decisions about whether or not this app is appropriate for your kids, and even yourself.
Keep in mind that ANY app on your child’s phone has the potential to be dangerous. Unless you know exactly who is on the other end, these apps can be a breeding ground for child luring.
While Tik Tok has come under heat, Snapchat, and many other popular apps, in my opinion, are equally as dangerous when it comes to kids.
In our house
My daughter definitely questions why I have certain apps on my phone that she does not have on hers. I always come back to the same answer, “because I want to know what is out there in the world for you to see, so I can be the one to navigate you through it.”
At almost 15, my daughter does not have any social media apps on her phone except for Pinterest. I will say with 100% certainty that she is exposed to other social media and many others when she is with friends at school. If they have it, I know she sees it.
I know we would love to put them in a bubble and keep them safe. The truth is, at some point, they are going to see something or hear something that we don’t want them to. I would rather be prepared to have that conversation with my 15-year-old than stick my head in the sand and just pretend it’s not happening.
I want to KNOW what is out there so I can have those informed conversations with her. So I can teach her that she doesn’t need to be embarrassed if she has questions or is uncertain about something she saw.
Ways to keep yourself and your kids safe on Tik Tok and other apps
Instead of allowing the app on your kids’ phone, put the app on your phone and create an account for yourself, then for them. You can toggle back and forth between the two which helps with monitoring and time limits. We do this for my daughter.
Keep children’s accounts private and make sure you know who their friends are within the app.
Speaking of time limits, many newer smartphones allow you to set security app time limits.
Talk to your kids about internet safety. A good rule of thumb for them (and you) is to limit the amount of personal information you give out. Don’t reference your street or identifying markers on your house. Don’t reveal the name of the school your kids attend, etc.
Be aware of explicit language and songs within the app
If you want to enjoy the fun side of the app without the worry of public viewers seeing your content, you can always create your videos and save them to your drafts. This allows you to access all of the fun and creative aspects of the app without having to post anything.
Here’s some more information on ways to maintain internet safety when it comes to Tik Tok
In the end, each parent has the decision on whether or not Tik Tok and many other popular social media apps are appropriate for their family. Informed decisions are the best step in the right direction on whether you’ll be hitting the whoa or the no on Tik Tok.