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Parents’ Guide to TikTok

By Tracey Dowdy

TikTok has been around for a while but has seen a surge in popularity over the past few years. It’s a free social media app that allows users to create, watch and share videos right from their phone. Available in over 150 countries and with over one billion – yes, billion with a B – users, there’s an excellent chance your kids are active on TikTok. 

While most of the content is harmless, like any social media platform, there are creators making videos not appropriate for children. Once their account is created, kids can post videos without your approval. There have been legitimate security concerns raised, plus an FTC suit for violating children’s privacy law; and serious software glitches–including one that could have allowed the company to collect user data

Does that mean you should make your child delete it from their phone? Before you decide, let’s address some frequently asked questions. 

Is TikTok safe?

Every social media platform comes with risks, but it is possible for kids to safely use the app with adult supervision (and a private account). For users 13-15, the account is private by default, so only approved friends can comment, and other users can’t Duet with their videos. Users must be 16+ to livestream or use direct messaging, and only users 18+ can buy, send, or receive virtual gifts. Parents can also use Restricted Mode for partial control or Family Safety Mode to pair accounts with their kids for complete control. PocketLint has a guide to the app’s parental controls.

What age is TikTok recommended for?

TikTok requires that users be at least 13 years old to use the full TikTok experience, although there are plenty of tween users. Anyone under the age of 18 must have the approval of a parent or guardian. Be aware that many videos include swearing and sexual lyrics, so make use of those parental controls. 

Can I use TikTok with my kids?

As always, you’ll need to set the boundaries for what content they can watch and creators they can follow. You can make videos together or offer to be their cameraman if having you in the video is “too embarrassing.” You can share the videos you create by email, text, or other social media, so you have control over who sees it. This way, your child can perform for an audience, but you can ensure it’s made up of people you trust.

Can I monitor my child’s activity on TikTok?

Outside Restricted Mode, there’s no way to filter content on TikTok. If you’re curious about what they’re watching, ask to watch videos of their favorite creators together – or later on your own – and keep an eye on the app’s most popular songs, videos, memes, and challenges.

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.