Parents Guide to TikTok
On August 2, 2018 Musical.ly rebranded. All Musical.ly accounts are now TikTok. So, if you are a parent like me, and had Musical.ly on your device because you like to keep up on apps your kids are using, you might have been wondering why you suddenly began getting push notifications from TikTok.
The rebranding is why. There’s no need to worry. I’ve got all the ins and outs for you in my Parents Guide to TikTok.
Parents Guide to TikTok
What is TikTok?
Like Musical.ly, TikTok is an app used mainly for creating 15-second music videos. It’s wildly popular with preteens and teens. In fact, on November 9, 2017, Bytedance Technology Co. acquired Musical.ly, Inc., which had 100 million active monthly users, for US $1 billion. TikTok has an average of 500 million active monthly users worldwide. So, the popularity of this app doesn’t look like it will slow down anytime soon.
TikTok users record themselves singing, lip-syncing, or dancing to a short spot of their favorite song. Users aren’t locked into music even though the name implies this is the case. The app is about performance. On TikTok you can find other 15-second performance-type acts. Once users finish their recording, they can add fun effects and filters. Once a user has finished creating their video, they can share it on TikTok or broadcast it to other social media networks.
Sharing your short video creations is encouraged on TikTok. And, there are multiple areas where users are encouraged to add or share their other social media accounts.
Most users want to grow their fan base. TikTok makes it easy for users to post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Messenger, and other messaging apps. Sharing directly to Snapchat is not an option. However, it is possible to share your clips to Snapchat using Snapchat’s new link-sharing option.
Most notable is the ability to connect your account to Instagram and YouTube. Parents, this is a great learning opportunity for your kids. Walk them through TikTok’s Privacy Page and explain to your kids what it means.
When you register, TikTok may collect and use the following information about you:
- Information you give us – Name, age, gender, address, email address, social media login details, telephone number, financial and credit card information, and your photograph as well as your language selection.
- Information you choose to share from your social networks – If you choose to link your social networks or public forum accounts (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google or WeChat) to the platform, you will provide us or allow your social network to provide us with information from your social network or public forum accounts, including your contact list.
- Technical information we collect about you – We automatically collect certain information from you when you use the platform, including your IP address, location-related data (as described below) or other unique device identifiers, your browsing history (including content you have viewed in the platform), cookies (as defined below), your mobile carrier, time zone setting, mobile or device information including the model of your device, your screen resolution, operating system and platform, and information regarding your use of the platform.
- Behavioral information we collect about you – We also collect information regarding your use of the services (e.g. your comments on our platform or any other user-generated content and video content that you generate through and broadcast on our platform). In addition, we link your contact or subscriber information with your activity on our platform across all your devices using your email or social media log-in details. We collect engagement scores (“likes,” comments, repeated views) and relate users based on your behavior.
- Location data – When you use the platform on a mobile device, we will collect information about your location, including location information based on your SIM card and/or IP address. If you allow us access to location data on your mobile device we will also collect Global Positioning System (GPS) data and mobile device location information.
- Your phone and Facebook contacts – You can choose whether to find other users of the platform either through (i) your phone contacts or (ii) Facebook contacts. If you choose to find other users through your phone contacts, we will access and collect your phone contacts, including the names, phone numbers, addresses, and any other information that you have stored on your phone about your contacts in order to determine if they are using the platform by matching them with existing users of the platform. If you want to find other users through your Facebook contacts, we will collect your public Facebook information as well as names and profiles of your Facebook contacts.
This isn’t the entire list, but these are the points most kids can easily understand. I want to note the permissions above are fairly common for most social media platforms.
If that’s the case, why even look at the Privacy Statements? Because we should never accept terms we’ve not fully read. We need to teach our kids the importance of this. And, it’s important that our kids understand that nothing they post on an app is fully theirs or truly private. A public forum is just that-public.
What is the age requirement for TikTok?
What type of content can users expect to see at TikTok?
TikTok does not allow explicit content or nudity. And so far, I’ve not seen any pornographic material on the app. But be aware, TikTok is not 100% G-rated. Some of the popular song choices have swearing and lyrics inappropriate for kids. This is true when you turn on the radio. Be sure your child knows your family guidelines when it comes to music.
You’ll also find videos of kids mimicking dance moves of popular celebrities. Again, there isn’t a way to police what one family deems appropriate and what another doesn’t. Be sure your child is clear on what they should and should not post. Having open discussions and a family digital media agreement is essential for families, and can help your family approach apps and social media proactively.
Setting up an account
On TikTok, all accounts are public by default. This means when a video is posted everyone can see it. It also means anyone can follow you and comment on your videos. Most users opt to keep their accounts public since they are hoping to connect with others and gain followers.
Users can opt to have a private account. A private account ensures only approved followers can view your content. A private account is especially wise for younger children. It’s also wise to allow comments and messages from friends only. Kids often feel they need to keep their account public so they can easily find their friends and their friends can find them. But, it’s easy to find someone on TikTok. So they can keep their account private and still find all their friends.
Can videos be deleted on TikTok?
Yes, if your child creates a video and needs to delete it, they can do so. To do this, simply select the video, then hit Delete.
Can you block or report inappropriate content and users?
Yes. TikTok makes it easy to block comments, content, and users. As parents, we hope our kids never see anything inappropriate online. And, we certainly hope they never experience bullying. But chances are they may need to report or block something or someone. So, it’s important to talk to them about how to block and report users on any apps they use. Having this conversation lets your kids know they can come to you without fear if a situation arises.
Are in-app purchases available?
Yes! And if you don’t have in-app purchases turned off on your child’s device, your child could spend some big money! Users can purchase coins which are given to other users. Think of it as tipping a local entertainer who you enjoyed.
Is TikTok a good app or not?
Believe it or not, I rarely think it’s fair to classify an app as good or bad. Apps are tools. An app is in the hands of the user. That said, I believe some apps offer us the ability to lead more productive lives. Some apps are highly gamified, which means many users will have a hard time limiting themselves when it comes to their time on the app.
You know your child. You know their strengths and their weaknesses. You know what apps will draw out their creative side in a healthy way. And, you’ll know when an app begins to cause them to struggle with balance issues, self-worth, and other character issues. TikTok has guidelines in place, yes, but kids do need parents to guide them regardless of the app or website so they develop strong digital media habits.