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  • Writer's pictureTina Huggins

Gen Z's Social Media App...TicTok

TicTok is a free social app that allows anyone watch, create and share short videos from ones phone. It has taken popular features from other apps such as lip syncing to short music sound bites to creating comedic videos that are no longer that 60 seconds. Users can create a video without leaving the app as it provides all the editing tools in the app to make it easy for users to add effects, filters and sound bites.

The app is owned by a Chinese tech giant called ByteDance. As of April 2020, TikTok has 800 million monthly active users according to which is more than Twitter, Linkedin or Snapchat. Thirty million people are active users in the US.

Like most social media apps, TikTok collects a huge amount of personal information about its users by demanding access to their phone's camera, microphone, contact list and location using GPS tracking. Here is a link to an article to understand what TikTok is doing with the data they are collecting. This should be the greatest concern for adults.

TikTok has the youngest user base compared to other social platforms. Almost 70% of its users are between 16-24 years old. Remember when teens used Facebook and then adults decided to join the fun, teens moved to Instagram. Kids start a trend and then move when parents and adults get involved. Today kids are flocking to TikTok because their parents don't understand it. It is also becoming a huge marketing tool for businesses.

The average TicTok user spends more than 50 minutes per day and TicTok's algorithm delivers what people want to see, so there is an "endless stream" of content. Teens love the app because they can express themselves. The Apple rating is 12+

How it works and the Lingo:

TikTok has been an app that I had no interest in using as I had read so much information that shared concerns regarding a person's privacy and the data collected while using this app. could I write about it if I hadn't tried it out? So, I dowloaded the app and was given every option available to create an account. One can sign up via Facebook, Instagram, email or phone number.

Once logged in, I could search for popular categories to find videos. Thousands of fun, interesting videos made by individuals or companies advertising were at my finger tips to watch.

I immediately chose the Food category...25 minutes later I moved on to # videos. I selected #DeliveryHeroes...another 10 minutes enjoying the videos, #TravelMemories, #Howto, #workout videos and many more made by kids and adults. What a time sucker it is...I laughed a lot for the sake of research. I can understand why so many are using this app if you are a video enthusiast. Regular people singing, acting, exercising, cooking, acting silly, as well as doing stupid and dangerous stunts...trying to make their fame through likes and comments from around the world.

TikTok has two feeds. A "Following" feed to view friend videos and a "For You" feed that suggests videos from strangers based on a person's viewing history. I would be cautious about the "For You" mode for Teens. This section can provide content that is hard to stop viewing. Experts say it is easy for students to view mature content or content that can promote self harm or eating disorders so parents need to be aware of what your teen is viewing.

Child Predators are known to be where children and teens are. I always recommend that any parent be on the same app as your kids if you allow them to use the app. TicTok has recently added a Family Pairing feature which allows parents and their children to be on the same account. Most kids will not like this!

It is so important for you to setup an account with your teen. Every area is turned on when you download the app so you need to take steps to turn certain features off to provide greater protection for your teen. You are giving your teens access to 7 billion people and they will not be able to tell the good ones from the bad ones. Remind them to never respond to a stranger.

What's a Duet?

A duet means imitating or creating a takeoff of a video that is on TikTok. Users duet a video that they think they can spice up by making it more creative.

Check out Common Sense Media reviews as they recommend this app for age 16+ because of the privacy issues and mature content. TikTok requires that users be at least 13 years old to use the app and anyone under the age of 18 must have approval of a parent or guardian.

Be Aware

Parents should be aware that a suit has been filed against ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok for using facial recognition software to superimpose filters on user's faces and artificial intelligence to evaluate the quality of uploaded videos and determine the user’s age according to a Chicago Tribune article. This is known as biometric information that TikTok does not inform its users or their guardians that it will be collecting.

Dangerous Viral Challenges

  • The Penny Challenge - which involves dropping a penny between a phone charger and the wall plug which has been blamed for starting fires.

  • Skullbreaker challenge involves tripping somebody so that they fall and smack their head on the ground!

TikTok's community guidelines maintains that it does not encourage these dangerous challenges. We need to remember that teens sometimes make poor decisions.

Security Concerns

Many have been raised as TikTok collects personal information from kids under 13. October 2019, the US government launched an investigation into ByteDance over concerns about how the data gathered on TikTokers of all ages is being used. They have concerns that the information could be used to spy on Americans and influence political decisions. TikTok says that this information is secure and not stored in China.

Stranger Danger

Though TikTok is "deeply committed" to child safety and has zero tolerance for behavior that could lead to child abuse or sexual exploitation. TikTok has a reputation for being a place where teen girls can receive creepy to upsetting messages from older men.

Being a parent is tough when you want to protect your teens and they want to do what they want to do. Try this app yourself to help you make the decision as to whether to download and us this app especially with tweens and young teens. Set appropriate time limits and review their setup profile to insure they are being protected while using this app.

Social media apps are often hard to monitor and learning how to work with your teens in this area can be very challenging as every child is different. I would encourage every parent to take this Seminar Series by Josh Ochs at He has free parent webinars on all the apps teens are using today. He works with teens across the country and is great at educating parents on these serious issues around using Social Media apps. It will be well work your time!

I have attached a Parent Guide for anyone that would like more information about setting up a profile.

TicTok Guide for Teen Accounts
Download PDF • 2.63MB

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