What is TikTok and Should You Be Concerned about it?
by Latayne C. Scott
Parents of teens are aware of YouTube, Instagram, and other popular apps that teens like to use. However, there’s a new app that is very popular with kids under 16.
TikTok is a social media app through which users share very short—60 second or less—videos. The most prevalent videos are comedy sketches, pratfalls, acrobatics and lip-synching to popular music.
One of the reasons this app has such appeal is that many of the creators of are themselves teens. The atmosphere is generally playful or even silly (its slogan is, “make social fun again), providing interludes that kids say is a welcome and refreshing platform for self-expression.
TikTok, first famous in China and just in the US market since last year with 15 million users already, also makes sharing on other social media platforms easy. Some of the most popular users, with followers in the hundreds of thousands to even millions, are former YouTube personalities.
Should you be concerned about your teen’s use of TikTok?
Here are some reasons to talk to your child about it:
1) Some of the language and other content of songs on the app is not appropriate for teens, some parents have said.
2) As with other forms of media, sometimes creators of the videos “push the envelope” in trying to stand out from the others. That could encourage your kids to take risks to get attention too.
3) Although the minimum age for use is 13, sometimes younger kids use it.
4) Unless you specify otherwise, all accounts are public – which means that both peers and predators can see what is posted. Only “approved followers” can directly contact your child, and the app does allow you to set the account to private. Even so, the child’s photo, username and bio are always public.
5) As we point out in Protecting Your Child From Predators: How to Recognize and Respond to Sexual Danger, parents must constantly be vigilant about their kids’ use of any app. TikTok has settings for “Digital Wellbeing” (that can limit screen time on the app), a “restricted mode” that monitors inappropriate content, and the privacy setting.
On the other hand, parents can have some very productive conversations – and good laughs together – by watching some favorite videos with kids. Sometimes you can get some real insight into what’s going on in your kid’s mind by seeing what he or she thinks is funny or interesting.
If you think some of the videos your kid likes “go too far,” this is a great opportunity to find out what the appeal is and to ask some open-ended questions that show your love and your interest.
Don’t know how to start conversations like this? Dr. Beth Robinson and I offer some practical tips for doing just that – and how to manage other challenges with teens and technologies—in Protecting Your Child from Predators. Available on Amazon and in local bookstores.
About the Author
Latayne C. Scott is author of over 25 published books and thousands of magazine articles and blog posts. She is co-author with Dr. Beth Robinson of Protecting Your Child from Predators: How to Recognize and Respond to Sexual Danger (Bethany, 2019) and an upcoming book about how to talk to teens about sex (also to be published by Bethany.) Robinson and Scott blog at KidsCallMeDoc.com.
Her latest books are What Will Be Made Plain: An Amish Ghost Story (TSU Press, 2019), A Conspiracy of Breath (TSU Press, 2017), The Parables of Jesus (TSU Press, 2017), and as a contributor to Leaving Mormonism: Why Four Scholars Changed Their Minds (Kregel, 2017).
You can read “Latayne’s Corner” on the 4th Friday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.