TikTok: An updated guide for parents and carers

Posted on 25 September 2020

The hugely popular app TikTok was released in 2018 and has been growing in popularity ever since.

TikTok is a social media app that allows young people to create and share their own short videos. Often, the videos are of users lip-synching or performing dance routines to pre-existing songs or clips. Users can also upload their own audio tracks or voice overs to videos they create. TikTok can be used to remix or edit videos,  and view or comment on videos created by others.

How popular is TikTok?

TikTok has become extremely popular and now has over 500 million users globally. It is particularly popular among young people, partly because it allows them to create and design their own videos to the songs that they love.

What are the features of TikTok?                     

TikTok can be used by young people to create their own videos, including ones in which they lip-sync (mouth along) to popular songs and clips. Users can select a song they want to use and then create and share their own video for it.

TikTok allows users to edit their videos using filters, captions, special effects and by adding background music or sound. All TikTok videos can be made faster or slower and are capped at 60 seconds. It is also possible for friends to create a duet even when they are not together.  

As with most social media apps, TikTok allows you and your friends to follow each other’s accounts. These followers are referred to as fans. Users can also set a profile video and see who has viewed their profile and liked their content. On TikTok, it is easy for users to view everything that other users who they are following have liked.

The ‘For You’ homepage allows users to discover and interact with other people’s videos. Sometimes certain hashtags or captions will trend, meaning they are being widely used at that particular moment. This allows users to see content with similar themes and contribute their own video using the same hashtag or caption. Likewise, the app sometimes promotes themed challenges, encouraging users to make videos of themselves doing specific things such as performing trending dance moves.

Many TikTok users aim to get as many followers as possible. Once a TikTok account has over 1,000 followers, it is also possible to create and share live videos.  

Age requirements on TikTok

TikTok has a minimum age of 13 and requires a date of birth at the point of registering.

Although TikTok is very popular among younger people, there are also a large number of adult users. These adults can create videos and interact with accounts that aren’t private. There are also many celebrities who have a large TikTok presence.

Things to be aware of

Because the app focuses on popular music, some of the songs contain explicit language, sexual content and references that may be inappropriate for younger users. Sticking to radio edits of popular music is the best way to avoid this.

Similarly, because users create their own videos, some videos posted in the app can contain things which aren’t suitable for younger children such as rude gestures. However, TikTok doesn’t allow users to search for inappropriate material.

TikTok users also have the ability to interact with other people through the comment section or via private messaging. Private messages can only be sent between users who are following each other or are ‘friends’ and can be turned off entirely. Strangers can only view or send comments to accounts which are not private. 

It is possible to spend real money on TikTok to tip or pay influencers, though this feature should not be available to anyone under 18. It is worth making sure that your child knows not to spend money on TikTok and that their account is not linked to a bank account.

Privacy settings

TikTok profiles are automatically set to public meaning that any content you post can be seen by strangers. It is important to make sure that your child’s account is changed to private, that they know to only add people they know in real life and that they are very careful not to share personal information such as videos which give away their location.

To make your account private:  

  1.  Go to your Profile tab.
  2. Tap on Settings icon  in the top right hand corner. 
  3. Tap Privacy and Safety and turn on Private Account.

It is also important to remember that setting an account to private does nothing to delete or restrict users who have already followed that account. To delete a follower or fan you need to:

  1. Tap Privacy and Safety and turn on Private Account.
  2. Go to your profile page.
  3. Tap on Fans.
  4. Choose the fan you wish to remove, go to user’s profile page and select the three dot menu icon  in the top right hand corner.
  5. Select Block.

Other useful parental controls in the app

In your Privacy and Safety Settings you can decide who, if anyone, can interact with your account through comments, direct messages and duets.  Make sure only friends can comment, message or duet with the account or that these features are turned off completely. This will avoid strangers being able to contact the account user.

Read more about how to do this here:  Comments, Direct Messages and Duet Controls.

TikTok has another setting called Digital Wellbeing in its Privacy and Safety Settings.

Here, you can enable Restricted Mode and select a password for it. In restricted mode, any videos or streams which may not be appropriate for children will be filtered and a password will be required to access such content.   

Digital Well-Being also allows parents and carers to set screen time limits for using TikTok. After the set time, a password will be required to access the app.  

You can read more about TikTok’s Digital Wellbeing Controls here.

To access these Privacy and Security Settings on TikTok, simply go onto your profile and click on the three dot icon  in the top right hand corner. 

It is really important to remember that no filter is ever completely effective on its own and that communicating as a family about how best to apply controls and guidance is key.

You can read more about the reason that apps have age restriction in our blog.

Making a report

Encourage your child to come to you if they ever see anything upsetting, confusing or inappropriate online. It is helpful to know how to make a report should this happen.

To report or block a user you need to visit their Profile Page, click on the three dots at the top right hand corner   and click Block or Report. To report, you need to select your reason for making the report.

To report a video you need to click on the share icon  on the right hand side, then select the Report option and select the reason that you are making the report.

To report a comment you need to double tap on the comment you wish to report, click on Report and select the reason that you are making the report.

There are options for reporting users or content which is illegal, hateful, explicit, dangerous, inappropriate or upsetting in any other way. You can also report anything which breaks TikTok’s community guidelines.

You can see TikTok’s guide to reporting inappropriate content here and you can see what breaks TikTok’s community guidelines here.

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