What is really happening on TikTok?

TikTok is the worlds fastest growing entertainment apps recording over 1.5 billion downloads from the Apple & Google Play Stores in 2019. The App is jam packed full of features with more than meets the eye. This month we dive under the hood of TikTok to uncover what is really happening on this entertainment/social networking platform that has everyone hooked!

It has been a massive 12 months for TikTok as it becomes the global sensation and billions of users gravitating to the platform with many primary school aged children begging parents to join the revolution. So, what should you know about TikTok and how can you kids safe?

What is TikTok?
TikTok is promoted as THE destination for mobile videos. On TikTok, users from all of the world can generate and video short-form videos that are exciting, spontaneous, and genuine. All you have to do is watch, engage with what you like, skip what you don’t, and you’ll find an endless stream of short videos that feel personalized just for you. Users are free to discover millions of videos or they may choose to create their own original videos instantly within the platform that include creative special effects, filters, music, and more.
Whilst all users can view and create short, shareable, fun and informative content it comes with a warning that you may also see dangerous, sexual and downright inappropriate videos. You can follow, like, comment and instant message with anyone within the platform making this entertainment app a social network!

The world of TikTok is often promoted and seen to only include videos of fun dances and duets, pop music. The unfortunate reality and culture that is growing in this space is careless content is being shared which deviates from fun dances to far more sinister types of videos. A quick visit the open ‘discover’ section truly highlights the complete diverse content that exists for users to view.
‘DISCOVER’ on TikTok
With absolutely anyone, young and old using TikTok it’s important to know that all users have the ability to view and search for content. Even before creating an account, when the app is downloaded you can immediately see all public content posted to TikTok. As was touched on earlier, TikTok is often promoted as a fun creative platform depicting users sharing fun dances and artistic editing. While that content does certainly exist, there is another side to TikTok that is concerning considering how easily accessible it is and the appeal that the platform has to young children.

Across so many of the shared videos the outfits, provocative poses, promiscuous dance moves, sexual connotations, drug references and crude language is the unfortunate the reality for much of the content within TikTok. This means young users are in-fact being exposed to interesting content. The concern here lies in how freely this type of content can be found. There has also been reported cases of users sharing more concerning content linked to self-harm, cutting, violence and pornography. Given free reign the ‘Discover’ section allows, users essentially have open search bar where users can search for anything their heart desires and be taken to the TikTok’s that fit within that category and or hashtag.
While they might not last long, on TikTok there is always a trending challenge promoted within the platformed designed to encourage others to try and tag themselves in. This promotes views and likes. These challenges sometimes promote dangerous and harmful behaviour that pose risks to those that engage in them. A recent challenge that demonstrated very dangerous outcomes was the #skullbreakerchallenge. A quick search of this hashtag on TikTok will highlight the obvious dangers of this challenge. The #skullbreakerchallenge involves two people jumping in the air and later a third, standing between them, does the same. Just as the third person jumps, the other two kick on the person’s legs, making the jumper fall. The goal here is to make the person in the middle fall on his or her back, hence the name. There have been reports globally of serious injury, with many healthcare professionals around the world raising concerns over this irresponsible behaviour.
Another dangerous TikTok challenge that young people might fine is the #outletchallenge. For the outlet challenge participants used a phone charger, power outlet on the wall and a small coin. Users are encouraged to share videos of the challenge that requires them to partially plug their phone charger into the power outlet, leaving a small gap. They would then pass the small coin down the gap to cause a spark. The obvious dangers here are self-explanatory. These are all easily viewable through open unrestricted accounts.
Default Settings
Default Settings are the settings that are automatically assigned when you first create an account on any game or platform. These are created up the App of Game Developer who has set these to best benefit the platform. It’s up to the user to then decide if they are happy with these settings or if they wish to change them.
TikTok’s Default settings are set to public, meaning any other user can see content posted to a users profile and make contact/message that user. The first step in creating a safer space for young users to always set accounts private. To do this navigate to the profile page and select the ellipses (…) in the top right-hand corner to then select click on ‘Privacy and Safety’.  Here you have several settings that can then be specifically managed to better protect the user’s safety and wellbeing when using TikTok.
TikTok Privacy & Security Settings:
  • Set visibility to PRIVATE account. Be sure your child only accepts ‘Friends’ (other users) that they know in the real world
  • Determine who can post comments (friends, everyone, off). We recommend Friends.
  • Who can duet with you (a duet lets you TikTok side by side with other peoples videos). If your account is set to PRIVATE you cannot create duets.
  • Who can react to your videos (friends, everyone, off). We recommend Friends.
  • Who can send you direct messages. We recommend Friends.
  • Who can view your liked videos. We recommend Friends.
  • Comments filters (within this setting users can filter key words by typing in words you never want to see in your comments. The use of key work filters here allows you to hide uncommon phrases or words that might not traditionally be seen as offensive)

TikTok’s Digital Wellbeing Setting
Screen time: There is also a feature within the settings that looks at Digital Wellbeing and the management of Screen Time. Within these settings users can limit screen time within the app itself and can select time limits of 40, 60, 90 or 120 minutes and decide how much time they want to spend on the app per day. This feature is password protected and valid for 30 days.

Restricted Mode: An optional account setting that will limit the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for all audiences. This done through artificial intelligence scanning posts for inappropriate or hurtful content. Unfortunately this doesn’t always filter all inappropriate content. The feature is activated via password and is also valid for 30 days so be sure to regularly revisit this setting.
Just remember:
The age recommendation for TikTok is 13-year-old.
While the settings available to users and information provide specific actions that can be taken to protect young people, please note that doing so will only minimise the risk. What users say and share on TikTok varies and is outside of anyone’s control. As parents be sure to actively explore the content in the Discover section of TikTok so you can see for your self your children will see. You will discover that whilst there is a lot of ‘fun’ shared on the platform you will also discover copious amount of suggestive, hurtful, sexual, harmful videos that you may not be happy for your children to see.