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TikTok: Your Questions Answered

5 minute read

The short-form, video-sharing app TikTok is hugely popular among teens which leaves us, parents, with a fair amount of questions about the infamous platform. Is it safe? What are the age restrictions? Are there any settings that can help protect my child from harmful content? We've got you covered and created this resource to answer some of the most frequently asked questions.
This resource is published alongside our TikTok webinar with Dr Elly Hanson as well as an explainer video that takes a closer look at how TikTok actually works.
Are there any parental controls we can use to protect our children on TikTok?

Yes, of a kind. In our explainer video, we mention some settings parents can control with passcodes as well as family pairing, which allows parents to link their accounts to their teens’ accounts and control certain settings. 

Here is a little more information about family pairing functions:

Screen Time Management: Control how much time your teen can spend on TikTok daily. TikTok also states that it has partnered with creators to make short videos that appear in the app and encourage users to keep tabs on their screen time. 

Restricted Mode: You can limit the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for your child. Even without family pairing enabled, parents can set screen time management and restricted mode by visiting the app’s digital wellbeing controls at any time 

Direct Messages: You’re able to restrict who can send messages to the connected account, or turn off direct messaging completely. TikTok also already has some policies and controls in place for messaging.

Starting on April 30 2023, TikTok will be taking these protections one step further and automatically disabling direct messages for accounts registered to young people under the age of 16.

How are boundaries best implemented with tech use?

In our webinar with Dr Elly Hanson, we talk about the need for warm, parental communication as a starting point. We know that this can help to reduce any detrimental impact of social media usage. We need to parent rather than ‘police’, create context-specific guidelines (rules for dinner time, rules for screen use in the car and at night) and rules as a family. The latter is foundational; we need to establish our family digital values. These are key and will evolve over time. We need to work towards ‘collaborative arrangements’ with children and young people. So, our best bet is not to rely on the ‘stair gates’ of parental controls, but to work on cultivating trust in general with our children. If you need a starting point on parental controls, check out our tip sheet.

How can I prevent my child from using TikTok? How safe is TikTok?

The platform is only as safe as the content that children see and how they use it. Even with privacy settings, it can be hard to navigate away from strong algorithms that direct content of all kinds towards our children. As demonstrated in our webinar, there is good, positive educational content of all kinds on TikTok, but there is also a lot of junk, as well as harmful and deeply inappropriate content.

How do I best convey the risks of using TikTok to my 12 year old?

Firstly, be aware that TikTok’s minimum age limit is actually 13. If you do choose to let children under this age use the platform, research and learn about it together, keeping communication channels open. Use the app yourself and pull out key examples of both positive and harmful content to share with them (use your discretion when it comes to what you choose to show your children). Refer back to your family’s digital values and talk about the exploitative nature of TikTok’s business model. Work on their general digital literacy and praise them for showing good judgement when they do. Plenty of Tooled Up Tips on effective and meaningful conversations with children are contained in our webinar.

How do I control the content of the TikTok videos my child views?

We mention the settings and family pairing parents can control in our explainer video, but to be honest, you may never be able to entirely control the content. Things can always slip through the filters, etc…

TikTok's Family Pairing
What age is TikTok appropriate for?

It is apparently designed for children over the age of 13, but please bear in mind your child’s self-esteem, level of vulnerability, maturity and general wellbeing before allowing them unfettered access to the app.

My 13 year old is independent and needs her phone if she is out or for school work. How do I stop her from using TikTok?

a) Work on your general relationship with her. Lean in and ask her what she loves about her phone and get her to show you around the apps that she uses. 

b) Perhaps talk about some of your concerns after watching our webinar and ask what her views are on some of the issues. Has she ever seen something worrying on TikTok? Can she explain how she keeps herself safe? Can she talk you through her privacy settings? Rather than wagging the finger at her, instead, seek to cultivate a sense of collaboration that develops her own agency and digital resilience. You can also install parental controls on her phone which allow parents to block certain apps or websites, such as TikTok. She could still interact with it on friends’ phones, however, so it’s best to work on your agreement about phone use in general.

Not having used the platform personally, how can I best keep an eye on what my child is doing/viewing on TikTok?

We think it is a good idea for all parents to familiarise themselves with the app, given how popular it is with tweens and teens. Beyond that, if your child is using it, please consider settings that help you to understand their viewing history, set time limits or filter keywords which can be controlled via using passcodes. In our explainer video, we show you where to find their video viewing history in the ‘settings’. We also explain where you can view likes and saved videos.

TikTok's settings
You mention the concept of digital citizenship in the webinar with Dr Hanson. Are there any available resources in terms of helping children or pupils work out the extent to which they are already being good digital citizens?

Yes, here are some fantastic modules that we discovered on the concept of digital citizenship, free for schools or families to use:

The Center For Humane Technology created a brilliant Youth Toolkit that is freely available on their website. This interactive toolkit helps young people navigate and apply critical thinking skills to an exploitative social media environment. The guides contain questions and activities that can be used individually or worked through in a group or classroom setting.


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