Tag Archives: TikTok

Free Video Chat Options While Social Distancing

If you’re like me, your family and friends are spread out over several states and even internationally. But, one of the good things that have come out of our shelter in place or self-quarantining orders is that many of us have a little more time on our hands to reach out and catch up. The descriptions of the options below refer to the free version of each of these platforms. The paid versions offer more features. 

Depending on the purpose of your chat, some platforms are better suited than others. Zoom surged in popularity once everyone started teleworking, but has been plagued with security concerns in recent weeks. Don’t worry – there are plenty of other options for you to choose from. 

My office has been using Jitsi for our team meetings but is a solid option for non-work related chats too. Compatible with Android, Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux systems, you can join a meeting through the Jitsi app or directly from your browser without creating an account – the meeting organizer simply sends a link to the “room” you’ll be meeting in. Users can customize the meeting URL and exchange messages and emojis during the video conference through an integrated chat.

Google Hangouts allows you to video chat with up to 25 people, with up to ten of you visible onscreen at once. It’s arguably the most user-friendly. seamlessly integrates with Google Calendar and Gmail, and doesn’t cap the amount of time you can chat where others set a time limit. Zoom, for example, limits you to 40 minutes if there are three or more people on the call. Google Hangouts has an app on iOS and Android but works just as well on your desktop or laptop. It also  

Your family and friends are likely familiar with Facebook’s Messenger app which we primarily used for sending messages. But it also offers a video chat option, making it a solid choice for those who are on the social media platform all the time anyway and may not be comfortable with creating another account or figuring out a different platform. To start a chat, simply go to Messenger, type the names of your Friends you’d like to chat within the “To:” field, then click on the video camera icon in the top right corner. Facebook will call them, all they have to do is answer the call. 

If you’re an Apple device user, FaceTime that wants to chat with other Apple users, FaceTime is the way to go. If you have an iPhone, iPad or Mac, it operates seamlessly, letting you start a video chat with up to 32 of your contacts (remember, iOS users only) just as you would a phone call or text message. If your Wi-Fi or data connection is weak or you have a poor phone signal, you have the option to do an audio-only call. 

Skype, the granddaddy of them all, is available for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac, offers video and audio calling, and a messaging feature. Its user-friendly interface supports up to 50 people on the same audio call but the number of video callers depends on what device you’re using.  You can also record, save and share your video calls, and even incorporate live captions and subtitles. 

Houseparty is currently the third most downloaded app on the iOS app store in the United States — behind Zoom and TikTok — and comes top in the United Kingdom. Available on Android, iPadOS (for iPad users) and macOS (for Mac users), the app allows “partygoers” to chat, take quizzes, and play games like “Heads Up,” and “Quick Draw.” Once you’ve downloaded the app, you can add your “friends” via your contacts or by pairing with Facebook or Snapchat. Users can invite up to eight friends to join their a “party” and there is the option to “lock” the party so that only invited guests can join.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Reporting Cyber-Abuse on Social Media

By Tracey Dowdy

For as long as there has been life on the planet, there have been those who find pleasure in tormenting others or demonstrate their perceived authority by denigrating those they see as weak or vulnerable. With the advent of social media, those abusive behaviors moved from the real world to the digital world. It’s become nearly impossible for victims to escape. Through social media, the bullying follows you into the privacy of your home, making it seem like there are no safe places.

According to DoSomething.org, nearly 43% of kids have been bullied online, and 1 in 4 have experienced it more than once, yet only 1 in 10 victims will inform a parent or trusted adult of their abuse. A study by the Universities of Oxford, Swansea, and Birmingham found that youth who have been cyberbullied are twice as likely to commit self-harm or attempt suicide than their non-bullied peers. Unfortunately, when those bullies grow up, they often continue their behavior. Pew Research Center found that 73% of adults state they’ve witnessed online harassment and 40% reporting being the target themselves. It’s not just individuals being bullied. Hate groups often utilize platforms like Facebook and Twitter to disseminate their message, and as a result, online hate speech often incites real-world violence.

The message, “If you see something, say something,” is more than a catchy slogan. It’s your responsibility if you see abusive or hate-fueled messages and images online. Here’s how to report offensive content.

Twitter clearly maps out how to report abusive behavior. You can include multiple Tweets in your report which provide context and may aid in getting the content removed more quickly. If you receive a direct threat, Twitter recommends contacting local law enforcement. They can assess the validity of the threat and take the appropriate action. For tweet reports, you can get a copy of your report of a violent threat to share with law enforcement by clicking Email report on the We have received your report screen.

Facebook also have clear instructions on how to report abusive posts, photos, comments, or Messages, and how to report someone who has threatened you.  Reporting doesn’t mean the content will automatically be removed as it has to violate Facebook’s Community Standards. Offensive doesn’t necessarily equate to abusive.

You can report inappropriate  Instagram posts, comments or people that aren’t following Community Guidelines or Terms of Use.

Users can report abuse, spam or any other content that doesn’t follow TikTok’s Community Guidelines from within the app.

According to Snapchat support, they review every report, often within 24 hours.

If you or someone close to you is the victim of harassment, and bullying, you have options. If the abuse is online, submit your report as soon as you see the content. If it’s in the real world, take it to school administration, Human Resources, or the police, particularly if there is a direct threat to your safety.

Finally, if you’re having suicidal thoughts due to bullying or for any other reason, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or call 1-800-273-8255 for help.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

 

Tik Tok – A Guide for Parents

By Tracey Dowdy

 Social media trends move faster than your toddler sneaking the treat you forbid them to eat. Don’t feel bad if you can’t keep up – that’s the nature of social media and toddlers.

One of the newer and most popular (over 100 million users) is TikTok – Real Short Videos, an app that lets you watch, create, and share 15-second videos from your phone. Users love it because it’s free, and allows them to add a soundtrack – including current chart-topping music – to create music videos with themselves as the star. It was the most downloaded free iOS app over the first half of 2018, and in September 2018, TikTok became the most-downloaded free app on Apple’s U.S. App Store. In  October 2018, it ranked first on Google Play.

Originally marketed as musical.ly in the U.S., it became TikTok when it merged with Douyin, a Chinese app that offered many of the same features. It combines elements of other popular sites and apps like the lip-synch app Dubsmash, create short videos as they did on (no longer available) Vine, and is interactive like YouTube or Instagram, allowing users to connect with friends and build a fanbase through likes, comments or duets.

So how does it work? To create an account, users (ages 13+) sign up with a phone number, email address, or through Facebook, or Instagram. Once you’ve created the account and log in, users can search for popular creators, by category, or hashtags to find videos. Users can connect with friends already using the app through their phone contacts or social media. You can make the account private by going to your profile page and selecting the three-dot icon in the top-right corner. Tap Privacy and Safety. Then, toggle the switch for “Private Account.” You can edit who is allowed to send you comments and direct messages, or who can do a duet with you.

Because the app uses popular music across genres, not all content may be appropriate for kids. Though the app doesn’t allow you to use search terms like “sex” or “porn,” there is a sexual content with users wearing revealing clothing and dancing provocatively that may not be appropriate for younger users of the app.

TikTok has some safeguards in place through its Digital Wellbeing features. Once turned on, it limits the amount of time users can spend on the app as well as filtering some videos that may be inappropriate for tweens and early teens. To activate Digital Wellbeing, tap the three dots at the top right of your user profile. Then, tap “Digital Wellbeing” beside the umbrella icon. Kids can’t disable these settings without a four-digit passcode. Parents can also set Screen Time Management which caps use of the app at two-hours a day, or they can activate Restricted Mode, which blocks some content.

Like every social media app, there’s room for abuse and the risk of your child being exposed to content you’d prefer they not see. No matter how many safeguards these apps put in place, the best defense is a parent actively monitoring what the child is doing online. There’s no way to watch them every minute of the day, but it’s still a good idea to share that TikTok account with younger users. Ask them about their favorite creators and familiarize yourself with what they’re posting. If they are exposed to objectionable content, don’t panic. Have a conversation about what they saw, and talk about how the content doesn’t match your family values. These age-appropriate, honest conversations about respect for themselves and others is the surest way to ensure your children will develop a healthy worldview in the midst of all that’s available online.

 Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.