Boy filming himself dancing with his phone on a tripod
What age do you have to be to use TikTok?
TikTok asks that users be 13 years of age, but this can easily be bypassed by entering a false date of birth. The app doesn’t ask for any age verification documents, so users under the age of 13 can simply pretend to be teens to gain access.
In the United States, children under 13 can access a section of the TikTok site that includes additional safety features. They can’t comment, search or post their own videos and are only privy to clean, curated videos from the site’s moderators. However, this has not proved popular with most young people and has not yet been rolled out in the UK.
Is TikTok safe for kids?
For the most part, TikTok is harmless and provides a creative outlet for your child to share ideas and have fun within their peer group. However, because many music videos contain swearing and sexual content – including suggestive clothing and dancing – children can enter murky territory quite easily.
It’s a good idea therefore to ask to sit in on some of your child’s TikTok sessions to make sure the stuff they are digesting, the TikTok videos they are making and the way themselves and their peer group are behaving is appropriate.
As with most social media, the TikTok app also opens up myriad opportunities for hurtful behaviour, otherwise known as cyberbullying, which is a huge concern for younger users on all social media platforms. We’ll discuss how to approach this on TikTok later in the article.
Setting up parental controls on TikTok
As TikTok is so popular and so easy to join, it’s important for parents to understand how to keep children safe from internet bullies and how to filter inappropriate content while they’re using TikTok.
In most cases, it’s advised that children don’t share any personal information on their profiles and for parents to familiarise themselves with the TikTok app and how their child uses it before applying any filters.
Knowing your way around a social media platform not only helps you understand what you’d like to modify, it also helps you relate to your child when discussing it. It’s very important that your child sees you as someone they can confide in and open up to.
Anyway, here’s some pointers to get you started…
The first step is to make your child’s TikTok account private. TikTok accounts are automatically set to ‘public’, meaning anyone can watch your child’s videos, send messages direct to them and access their local information. This type of profile obviously has its drawbacks. To switch to a private account, just go to your child’s profile and tap the three-dot symbol in the top-right, then select ‘Privacy’ > ‘Safety’ and switch on ‘Private Account’.
From the ‘Profile’ page you can also select who can post comments on videos and who can direct message your child and duet with them. If you want to limit any contact with strangers it’s generally advised to use the ‘Friends’ setting.
TikTok allows parents to set time limits on the app and filter content on your child’s phone or device by using the app’s Family Pairing feature.
Open TikTok on your child’s phone or device, go to their profile and tap the three-dot icon on the top-right, then select Digital Wellbeing. From here you can:
Manage Screen Time - Managing your child’s screen time on any device and using any app is important as too much exposure to screens can be detrimental to their physical and mental health. As far as TikTok goes, users can be limited to a maximum of 2 hours on the app per day, with the option to dial this down to 40 minutes. Once you’ve stipulated the time limits you think are appropriate for your child, you can lock the setting using a passcode.
Enter Restricted Mode - You can filter age-inappropriate content where possible with this setting. It doesn’t promise to block 100% of mature content, but it will definitely help. Again, we highly recommend you examine this feature and always lock the new settings with a passcode.
Setting up TikTok’s Family Pairing feature - To restrict your child’s TikTok time without accessing their phone, simply download TikTok and create an account yourself. On both yours and your child’s phone, tap the three-dot symbol on the top right corner of the Profile page and select Family Pairing and scan the QR code to sync your account and your child’s account. (Be aware that your child can bypass your restrictions by re-installing the app and entering new details.)
Keep an eye out for cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is any cruel form of communication conducted online or via a smartphone. It can occur 24 hours a day, it can be just as serious and unpleasant as any other form of bullying and, rather unfortunately, it can occur on TikTok.
Cyberbullying can take many forms including: belittlement via fake rumour, gossip or upsetting untruths; harassment via messages or humiliating comments; stalking someone persistently with threats and intimidation designed to frighten them; flaming or using extreme and offensive language to frighten and intimidate; using trickery to expose someone’s private life in a bid to ridicule and shame them publicly; and excluding someone to make them feel rejected, unpopular, lonely and despondent. All of these instances can occur on TikTok and every instance of cyberbullying on any platform can be hurtful for the victim’s self-esteem.
Cyberbullying and parental relationships
In order to address cyberbullying, it’s important you have a good relationship with your child, that you understand the social media sites they use and that they see you as someone they can confide in and open up to. Listen to their issues, decided the best course of action with them and don’t use any indiscretions as an excuse to ban them from using their favourite social media sites. If they think this is the consequence of telling you the truth, they may not open up to you in the first place.
For more information on setting controls across a range of devices, apps and platforms visit Internet Matters