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  • Luisa Scherer

TikTok: what you need to know about this social network popular among kids and teens

Updated: Jun 19, 2023



Have you ever heard of TikTok? It is the fourth most-downloaded non-gaming app in the world, according to Sensor Tower. TikTok, previously know as Musical.ly, is a social network centered on video sharing, especially lip syncs, dance, remixes and other types of content that involve music and video editing. TikTok is popular with kids and teens worldwide. We wrote an article based on Common Sense Media’s review of TikTok and on parents’ testimonies. 


In their profiles, TikTok users post funny dubbings and lip syncs, famous choreographies, viral challenges or just themselves singing a Top 40 song. At first glance the idea might sound innocuous: a social network geared towards sharing videos that focus on music, where users can interact momentarily through chats and filters, stickers and augmented reality animation.


 On Google Play and the App Store TikTok is recommended for 12 years old and up, but the website Common Sense Media reviewed the app and suggested that it be used only by those who are 16 or older. Why is that?


Exposure on TikTok


An user can create a private account, but TikTok’s goal is the exact opposite of keeping your personal content private. The app has a high number of videos of children and teenagers dancing, lip syncing or singing, which is available for anyone. In the United States users younger than 13 years old can’t post any kind of content


Data Mining


In february 2019 Musical.ly, the company that owns TikTik, was fined for US$ 5,7mi in the US for illegally collecting children's personal information. As a result of that the app created a “Kids’ Platform” so that users younger than 13 years old can use the app without having their data mined and so that they can only view content and not post it. That measure is in effect only in the United States. In Brazil children younger and 12 years old can can consent to the collection of their data if they understand what the terms are.

 

In other countries children older than 12 who use TikTok have their data collected: contact information, content creation, location, technical and behavioral information and even information shared through TikTokon other social media. TikTok even collects information from messages sent through the platform and, if the user allows access, collects information from the device’s contact list. If the user logs in using another social network, TikTok will have access to all data from that account as well.


Inappropriate Content


Since music occupies a prominent place in the app’s dynamic, videos with swear words are common, once they make use of many song with explicit lyrics. Contents that are oversexualized or portray drug and alcohol use are also criticized by many parents. In these videos, adults and even teenagers do sexualized choreographies, recreate raunchy music videos or explicitly use alcohol or drugs. These videos end up reaching not only the adult and teenager audiences that have posted those contents, but also kids younger than 12.  



Consumerism on TikTok


TikTok is a social network, so like all social networks it has its influencers: popular content creators with a vast number of followers. These users influence their large number of followers by using and promoting hip and trendy products, compelling people who watch their videos to purchase them as well. Out of 5 possible points, TikTok scored 4 on Common Sense Media’s “Consumerism” category. 


Screen Time


Just like any other social media or entertainment platform, users - kids and adults alike - must be aware of how much time they spend on the app. TikTok offers a feature that limits screen time through a password which changes every 30 days, making it easier to manage how much time kids spend on the app. 

What can I do to protect my kids on TikTok?

  1. A family conversation about internet and social media is a good starting point. You should talk about when it is appropriate to share information and which information should be kept private. It is advisable to read TikTok or Musical.ly’s  terms of use and privacy to be sure about the rules. For instance: is it possible to share a private video which only friends can see?

  2. Before downloading TikTok talk to your family about song that have content deemed inappropriate for children, using the current most popular songs as a reference. Which songs are allowed? What kind of video are the kids allowed to post?

  3. Discuss which songs would be fun to lip sync or some creative way of making a 15 second video. Think of dance moves or choreographies that go along with the song. Engage, participate and make yourself present. 

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