TikTok has exploded in popularity among teenagers and kids, with an estimated two-thirds of U.S. teens now using the video-sharing app according to a 2022 Pew Research survey. As a parent, you may have concerns about your children spending time on TikTok. Is it safe? What risks does it pose? And how can you keep your kids secure if they are using it?
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk through everything parents need to know to make TikTok as safe as possible for their kids in the new year. We’ll cover the potential dangers, TikTok‘s safety features, setting boundaries and having conversations with your children, and monitoring their activity. With a few reasonable precautions, you can allow your kids to enjoy TikTok while reducing many of the platform‘s risks.
Understanding the Risks of TikTok for Kids
All social media platforms come with some inherent dangers, especially for young, impressionable children. Here are some of the most common risks kids can encounter on TikTok and other apps:
- Cyberbullying: Just like in-person bullying, mean or harassing messages can be sent directly to your child. Unlike at school, you may not be aware it‘s occurring.
- Inappropriate content: TikTok‘s focus on music and short videos means kids can potentially hear profanity, see nudity or sexual content, and view other mature material.
- Predators: While likely rare, adults with bad intentions could attempt to contact your child via direct messages.
- Data collection: TikTok gathers a significant amount of user information which could expose your child‘s private conversations, location, contacts, and more if they aren‘t careful.
While TikTok does have protections in place for younger users, ultimately it comes down to parental involvement and oversight to help avoid these risks.
Leveraging TikTok‘s Family Safety Tools
The good news is TikTok provides a variety of built-in safety and security controls parents can use to customize their child‘s experience:
Enable Family Pairing
Link your own TikTok account to your child‘s account through the Family Pairing feature. This allows you to:
- Monitor your child‘s time spent on the app via weekly activity reports
- Control screen time limits (e.g. 2 hours per day maximum)
- Limit content visibility via Restricted Mode
- Block direct messaging
Make Accounts Private
Set your child‘s profile to private so only approved followers can view videos or interact. This helps limit contact with strangers.
Use Screen Time Limits
Cap daily TikTok usage through screen time limits you control. For kids under 13, accounts are limited to 60 minutes total per day.
Tailor your child‘s For You and Following feeds using restricted keywords to filter out unwanted videos.
Disable Direct Messaging
Turn off the ability for others to privately message your child through their Family Pairing settings.
Automatically mute notifications during certain times of day, like when kids should be asleep.
Setting Expectations and Rules for Your Child
The most robust safety controls still require involved parenting and communication with your kids. Here are some tips:
- Have regular conversations about online safety and reminding kids to avoid unfamiliar followers or messages. Let them know you‘re always available if they encounter anything upsetting on the app.
- Stress the importance of protecting private information like phone numbers, school names, addresses, etc. Establish rules against sharing this data.
- Consider co-viewing TikTok with younger kids and liking/commenting on positive videos together to influence the algorithm. Model good online behavior.
- Set clear expectations around daily/weekly screen time limits and consequences for breaking rules. But also take interest in the content your child enjoys watching and creating.
- Recognize that your child craves some privacy. Focus more on evidencing your trust through monitoring than snooping.
- If your child begins to lose interest in TikTok or has a bad experience, assure them you can permanently delete the account if needed.
Monitoring Your Child‘s TikTok Activity
Even with parental controls and open conversations, you‘ll want to keep occasional tabs on your child‘s TikTok use. This doesn‘t mean invasive surveillance, but rather just prudent awareness as a parent. Areas to focus on include:
- Direct messages – Spot check these even if you‘ve disabled messaging. Kids find loopholes. Make sure there are no concerning contacts or chats.
- Videos – Periodically check your child‘s likes, shares and feeds. Make sure content aligns with your expectations.
- Screen time – Verify your child is following limits you‘ve set for daily or weekly TikTok use through account reports.
- Changes in behavior – Note if your child exhibits discomfort about you seeing their phone or dramatic shifts in mood that could indicate cyberbullying.
- Account security – Ensure your child uses a strong password and two-factor authentication to prevent account breaches.
With reasonable oversight – aided by TikTok‘s safety tools – you can allow your kids to participate on the platform with confidence.
TikTok Safety FAQs for Parents
Many parents have additional questions about managing their kid‘s TikTok experience. Here are answers to some common concerns:
How do I block inappropriate content on TikTok?
Enable Restricted Mode and/or use video keyword filters to limit exposure to unwanted content.
Can kids under 13 use TikTok?
Yes, but in a special restricted experience with additional safety protections enforced by TikTok.
How do I delete my child‘s TikTok account if needed?
You can permanently delete their TikTok account through the account settings. It will remain deactivated for 30 days before being removed fully.
Should I ban TikTok outright for my child?
Banning it outright tends to backfire. Kids will find ways around it. Maintaining an open dialogue and using safety controls is more effective.
How much screen time is too much for kids on TikTok?
Experts recommend limiting social media use to 2 hours per day maximum for teenagers, and far less for younger kids. Set limits you feel comfortable with.
The Bottom Line
With its viral videos and trending challenges, TikTok presents some risks for our kids. However, by taking advantage of the platform‘s parental controls, having frequent chats about online safety, and taking an interest in your child‘s usage, TikTok can be made appropriately safe.
Internet dangers are the unfortunate reality of our digitally-connected world. But armed with information and tools like those provided in this guide, parents can allow their kids to enjoy social media while maintaining their security. Trust paired with vigilance is key.