Every TikToker can express themselves and convey a message to friends or other users with their video. However, parents should understand that children and teenagers often do not understand some limits, and trying to make the video as creative as possible, they might disclose unintentionally private information or create inappropriate, shameful, offensive content, which poses a potential risk of encountering cyberbullying.
"The main aim of this platform is that it challenges you to create humorous, even foolish video, which is why it is difficult for children to feel the ‘red lines'. There are cases when children and teenagers post humiliating content on TikTok, not only about themselves, but also about other peers, which means that this social media includes many serious risks. In addition, it is important to remember that on this platform, teens not only create their content, but also watch videos produced by others, which may be, for instance, videos with rude language and indecent gestures or adult content" says Maija Katkovska, Head of the Latvian SIC (Drossinternets.lv).
To make the use of TikTok a positive experience for both children and adults, experts of BITE and Latvian SIC have collected the most important security tips and safety issues to be followed, which parents should explain to their children.
Parents should become familiar with TikTok and express interest for children's digital lives
When talking to the experts of the initiative "Bite Your Finger!", children and teenagers admitted that they often do not tell parents about what they do on different internet platforms, as adults do not understand the importance of their virtual life. However, Maija Katkovska states that children would be interested to talk with their parents not only about their daily activities, but also about their digital lives. She encourages parents to gain knowledge also about those social media platforms where children spend much of their time and which may be not so interesting to adults, yet may help them become a better guide for their children in the digital world.
So if a child wants to use the TikTok, parents should become familiar with it at first. Exploring the content on this platform, the actions and tools of the app, as well as profiles of other users will make it easier for moms and dads to identify potential threats and warn their child about them.
If parents have a TikTok account, it would be advisable from time to time to check the content the child posts on theirs and to ask the child to delete those videos that may cause unpleasant situations for the child or another TikTok user. For example, if the child has posted an offensive comment about another user's video, it must be deleted. On the other hand, if the child has posted a video presenting themselves in an ambiguous situation, they should remove it immediately!
Privacy settings will protect the child against strangers
If the child or teenager's account is public, this means that people from all over the world can watch the videos published there, comment and share them on different platforms, and contact the author. However, not all users have good intentions. It is important to be aware of these risks, not only for parents themselves, but also to explain them to children.
A closed account will help you avoid unwanted comments, as well as communication with strangers. This means that before starting to use TikTok actively, you must certainly discuss with children and install together account privacy settings, such as disabling other users from commenting on your child's videos, writing direct messages, downloading your child's video for other purposes, and so on.
Safety on TikTok also depends on your own measures
The algorithm of TikTok is different from other social media. For example, while on Instagram people have to follow users to see the content they post in their account, on TikTok, a child may accidentally see a video with rudeness, which also includes drinking alcohol, smoking, adult content, and so on. To prevent this, parents must use the content filtering settings provided in the app.
Children should be also regularly reminded about basic safety issues, which they should pay attention to when creating and posting a video on the app in order not to endanger themselves. They should not make a video with the number of their house and street name seen in the background, as this may identify their location. Also, during the summer season, they should not film themselves in a swimsuit or otherwise naked or half-naked. They should not film or post offensive videos showing other people, such as schoolmates, without their permission. They should never start talking to strangers, even though they identify themselves as children, teenagers, and so on.
Like for any other social media platform, parents should warn their child that the content they produce (even if they intended it to be simply funny) on TikTok may provoke offenders and can hurt others. In such cases, the offender will not hesitate to start cyberbullying and writing negative, abusive comments, and so on.
Violations should be reported to parents and administration of the social media
Parents should remind their children and teenagers about how they should act when they experience any violations on the app. When facing an offensive, disturbing video or comment, a child must report this situation to parents or any other trusted adult. Also, violations encountered on the app, for example, in chatting, comments, and so on, should be reported to the TikTok administration. If a user's behaviour seems suspicious, offensive, or humiliating, such TikToker must be certainly blocked.
Find out more information about the work of the Latvian Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.