Children on TikTok? Tips parents should know to monitor and control the app


The latest TikTok trend involving warnings of potential violence in schools may leave parents wondering how they can bring their kids’ use of social media under control. Experts say it’s not easy.

After a series of waves of anonymous shootings and bomb threats went viral this week, school districts across the United States have issued warnings, stepped up security and, in some cases, canceled classes.

No major effects resulted, but this is just the most recent social media-related predicament that parents – and their children – have found themselves in.

With several incidents related to TikTok recently – including “challenges” to slap teachers and vandalize schools – parents may wonder what they can and should do to keep track of what their children are exposed to. on social networks.

For starters, you want to know if your kid is using an app like TikTok, which already has over a billion users. The Short Video App has a version curated for users under the age of 13 (new users must go through an age barrier to use the app). For 13-15 year olds, TikTok default accounts are private and users must approve subscribers and allow comments.

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But many younger children are using the app, including Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s 8-year-old daughter, North Kardashian, who this week started a live video of her mother in bed before Kim Kardashian said: ” No, stop, you’re not allowed to, ”BuzzFeed reported.

“I think it’s very important for parents to know when their kids are using the app, especially younger ones,” said Yalda Uhls, professor of psychology and founding director of the Center for Scholars & Storytellers at UCLA. “At this age, they are too young to fully understand the immensity and permanence of the Internet, so it is essential that parents get involved if they let their child use the app.”

How can parents track their children’s social media use?

Most parents didn’t grow up with social media and two-thirds of them (66%) say parenting has become more difficult than 20 years ago, in large part because of smartphones and computers. social networks, according to the Pew Research Center. Even though nearly three-quarters (73%) of those 50 to 64 report using social media, platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok are much younger, the centre’s research found.

The good news: TikTok is easier to understand than the Snapchat messaging app, which also lets you send personalized video messages that disappear within 24 hours. The bad news: Parents may underestimate TikTok, which also lets you post videos edited to include music, text, and other special effects.

“Sometimes parents think it’s harmless,” Uhls said. But “it’s very easy to use for young children. So it raised the stakes in terms of participating in your child’s social life long before they were really ready for these tools.”

Parents can download the app themselves and try to learn a bit more about how the platform works.

On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you choose to connect with another person or follow an account. While you can follow an account on TikTok, it’s “a lot different because you just get a stream of videos that depending on the platform you might be interested in,” said Andrew Selepak, University of Florida professor and director. of the graduate program specializing in social media. A young person is going to be offered different content than an adult, he said.

But tap on “Discover” and you can search for “challenges” or “music” to see what’s currently trending on the app.

Technology can help protect your child online

If your child wants to use TikTok, parents can start by sharing an account with them using the app’s family pairing feature, suggests Common Sense Media’s Ultimate Parents Guide on TikTok. Parents can see what kids are watching and posting, but the guide notes that kids can set up a different account with a different email address and phone number.

Also under Digital Wellbeing in the app settings: screen time management and restricted content features.

Most devices also have parental controls, which allow you to set settings or limits for how long a device or app is used and restrict access to certain apps and content. . Details on Apple’s parental controls for screen time and content can be found on the Apple website, while instructions for screen time and apps allowed on Android devices can be found. here.

For more options, consider Bark, a leading app, which can be installed on a child’s smartphone or Android or iOS device. Bark can be configured to monitor screen time, block or allow certain apps, and send alerts to parents when their child has encountered – or searched for – certain content (violence, sexual content, online predators, suicide, depression, anxiety).

Bark software monitors texts, emails, YouTube, and over 30 other apps, including TikTok, that your child uses.  When they detect signs of issues such as cyberbullying, sexual content, online predators, depression, suicidal thoughts, and threats of violence, parents receive an alert via email and text.

“The app serves as a dashboard, where you can see all of your different kids and all of the different accounts, what you might need to sign in with, who has alerts, what are the alerts and what are you doing? Said Titania Jordan, Director of Parents at Bark.

The best tactic is to talk about social media

Watch apps can work for a while, but as kids get older, “it’s almost a badge of honor for a preteen (or) teenager to bypass them,” said Uhls, who is part of the Bark’s advisory board.

Education on social media – parents and children can learn together – and discussion on different platforms is important, she said.

The recent TikTok School Safety Event might provide an opportunity to show interest and bring up the topic with your kids. “Social media breeds anxiety in adults, and for good reason, but to keep a window into our children’s online lives we need to start from a place of curiosity rather than condemnation,” Christine said. Elgersma, editor-in-chief of social media and learning resources at Common Sense Media.

Parents, caregivers and teachers must remember “that what we see as children’s screen life, they only see their life. There is no division,” he said. she declared. The start of discussions about what is happening on social media should start early, as “children can become more and more discreet with their parents as they get older, which is to be expected,” Elgersma said.

A good approach: be curious, ask what your child’s friends are doing on social media, to avoid a direct question. “Playing at the ‘silly adult’ angle and asking kids to teach us what’s new or cool puts them in a position of power and being in the know, and we get some of the information we want,” a- she declared.

And remember, just because a kid doesn’t have a smartphone or the TikTok app that doesn’t mean they can’t be exposed to what’s on the app. TikTok videos can be shared on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, and via SMS. “If your child takes the bus, if he is surrounded by other children who have a smartphone, in the dining room, at recess, there is a good chance that one of them has it and that ‘He sees it. It’s inevitable,’ Jordan said.

Parents, she said, “need to have these difficult, but very important conversations with them about school violence, cyberbullying, pornography, online predators and mental health. All of these things are so much more on the faces of our children than they were when we were children. And we are their support system, we have to fix it, we have to be there for them. “

Help could come from Congress, which recently held hearings on social media. “It’s great for a parent to sit down and talk to their child (about issues),” Selepak said. “It seems like it’s up to the platforms to understand the dangers… and (to have the content removed) to prevent impressionable minors from doing stupid things.”

Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.


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