Over the past few years, TikTok has become the social media app of choice for Gen Z. But just like all social media platforms, credible information, dangerous challenges, and questionable role models have found popularity on the app and with this generation.
TikTok has implemented several settings over the past few years to protect younger users from predatory behaviour, as well as introducing a fact-checker, but there is content that still falls between these settings that teens could be exposed to.
But what can parents do to ensure the information and use of the platform remains safe for their kids?
Here, social media expert Demelza Leonard shares five things parents need to consider if their teen is active on TikTok.
Learn about the platform
Understanding how TikTok works will give insights into what your teens might come across. Know the difference between the For You Page (the first page you land on when you open the app) and Following feed, which is from creators you follow.
TikTok also offers Well Being and Family Pairing settings. The TikTok Wellbeing Tool limit certain videos to “Restricted mode”, this means that the content will be more PG with sexual or violent content removed.
The Family Pairing setting allows parents to link their child’s account to their own. It gives them the ability to control Direct Messages, also set screen time limits and turn off/ on restricted content from their own device.
Talk about influencers
Influencers are huge on TikTok, and whether we like it or not, your kids are going to follow them.
An example of an influencer that parents have voiced concerns over is Andrew Tate. Andrew Tate shares misogynistic and dangerous views towards women which were gaining favour with young boys. In response many schools alerted parents to the hateful information that Tate was spewing. Fortunately, he has recently been removed from most social media platforms.
Try to understand why your kids are following particular influencers and what attracted them to their page. Discuss the pros and cons of these influencers and allow them to understand the impact social media has on them or what they post in future.
Help them understand that not everything they read is factual
Today’s kids are curious. Many believe in positive causes and social impact. So, it’s important to remember that kids are going to be finding information out on their own and TikTok is more likely to be the app now to help them to do this.
Not surprisingly, a report from CM Group shows that 41% of Gen Z obtains news and information on TikTok. This highlights for Gen Z, it’s a primary news destination. Although they are using the platform to discover the world, we can still guide them toward genuine news sources or more trustworthy TikTok creators.
Stick to the age restrictions
Enforce age requirements based upon app recommendations. You can’t risk exposing pre-teens to some of the content widely shared on TikTok. In most cases, TikTok will automatically default an account to private settings if the user is under 16 years of age. However, making an account private is one way to restrict interactions to only the access parents approve.
The scrolling capabilities of these apps makes it easy to go down the rabbit hole for long periods of time. Sticking to a set time will ensure minimal use and allow for life beyond the TikTok scrolling app. The TikTok wellbeing tool can set limits for daily screen time to a period you’re comfortable with.
TikTok has shown it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. It’s popularity and continued impact on pop culture shows it’s a driving force for Gen Z to connect and communicate.
But as with every social media platform, making sure we understand how it works and having open and honest conversations with younger users will help them make more informed and safer decisions when using the app, now and in the future.