The Obvious and Hidden Dangers of TikTok: Safeguarding Your Kids
As a parent, it’s natural to be cautious about the apps your child is using, particularly when new platforms come onto the scene.
One such app is TikTok, a social media platform designed for sharing short videos. TikTok has become incredibly popular with tweens and teens—from viral dances to funny cat videos, there’s certainly a lot to love!—but concerns have been raised about online safety.
In this blog post, we’ll delve into these concerns to provide parents with a guide to understanding TikTok and how to keep their kids safe while using the app.
- Key Takeaways: Why is TikTok So Bad?
- The Data TikTok Collects
- The Hidden Impact of TikTok on Young Minds
- One More Risk? Scams
- Guide: Tweaking TikTok for Maximum Safety
Key Takeaways: Why is TikTok So Bad?
With more than a billion monthly users—almost as many as Instagram and twice as many as Snapchat—TikTok is undoubtedly one of the most popular social media app sites in the world.
Yet it’s not without its flaws. One of the biggest concerns that parents have about TikTok is its security risks. In fact, in 2020, the US government banned the app due to concerns about security and data privacy. While the ban was later lifted, it raised many questions about TikTok’s data collection practices.
TikTok collects a significant amount of data on most users, which could be used for targeted advertising, and there have been reports of data breaches and hackers targeting the app.
TikTok has come under fire for allowing inappropriate content, including sexual content, violence, and drug use. While the app has taken measures to remove harmful content, it is still possible for children to stumble upon inappropriate videos.
And, like with most other social media apps, TikTok can be a breeding ground for cyberbullying. Users can leave negative comments on TikTok videos and even target other users directly.
The Data TikTok Collects
As one of the fastest-growing social media platforms worldwide, TikTok has become a popular pastime for millions of youngsters worldwide. But there’s a dark side to all those cute, funny, and short videos.
Let’s talk about some of TikTok’s data privacy issues before we go any further in discussing the negative impact of the app.
ByteDance’s Intentions: Where Does Your Data Really Go?
So what happens to the data the app collects?
TikTok is a subsidiary of ByteDance—a Chinese tech company. The company has a history of controversies surrounding its handling of user data. ByteDance claims that TikTok stores US user data on US servers, but there are still concerns about the company’s intentions.
In 2020, the Trump administration stated that TikTok’s data collection practices posed a national security threat, and the company had to make changes to mitigate these concerns.
Silent Tracking: How TikTok Watches, Even Without an Account
Even if you don’t have a TikTok account, the app can still track your mobile device via a device fingerprint or a digital footprint. TikTok uses silent tracking, which means it doesn’t ask for user permission before collecting data.
This includes your device’s unique screen resolution, carrier name, IP address, and more. While this data isn’t directly linked to your identity, TikTok can use it to target ads or use it to develop a profile based on your browsing history.
Overstepping Boundaries? TikTok’s Excessive Data Collection
TikTok collects a significant amount of data from its users, including your IP address, location, browsing history, search queries, and even keystrokes.
The TikTok app, like most social media apps, has access to your phone’s contacts, camera, microphone, and photos. While some of this data is necessary for the app to function, it’s still more than other similar apps collect. There are also concerns about how TikTok uses this data, whether it’s sold or shared with third-party advertisers.
Data Sharing Dilemma: Who Else Sees Your TikTok Data?
TikTok has faced scrutiny over data sharing with Chinese authorities due to ByteDance’s origin. While there’s no evidence that Chinese authorities have access to US user data, TikTok stores data in China, making it subject to Chinese government cybersecurity laws.
Not only that but TikTok has been known to share data with third-party advertisers, raising concerns about user privacy and data security.
The Hidden Impact of TikTok on Young Minds
It’s undeniable that TikTok has become a global phenomenon, especially among young minds. With the app’s 15-second videos, it has revolutionized the way young people create, consume content, and interact with one another.
However, as TikTok continues to gain more traction, many experts are starting to raise concerns over its impact on the mental health and well-being of children and teenagers.
Here are some key concerns.
One of the biggest concerns surrounding TikTok is the presence of inappropriate and harmful content that promotes violence, racism, and hate speech. Children are likely to come across questionable content on the app, as the platform’s algorithm suggests videos based on their browsing history.
Moreover, many TikTok challenges also involve dangerous trends or stunts (like the infamous “skull breaker challenge”) that can cause harm to children if they try to replicate them. This is a big deal, especially when the challenges become deadly.
Aside from dangerous challenges, another issue with TikTok is the rampant sexualization of teens, particularly teenage girls, on the platform. This can include wearing revealing clothing, dancing suggestively, and creating content that promotes a stereotypical idea of beauty and femininity.
Unhealthy Beauty Trends
TikTok has also introduced a wide range of beauty trends that can have detrimental effects on teens’ self-esteem. From “hourglass” body poses to fake freckles and overdrawn lips, these trends can create unrealistic beauty standards that may lead to body dysmorphia and unhealthy habits such as eating disorders.
TikTok’s algorithm can also create potentially harmful patterns in children’s online behavior, such as addiction to the app and the need for constant validation through likes and followers. The addictive nature of the app can impact children’s mental health and cause them to feel pressure to create and publish content to “stay relevant” on the platform.
Issues Regarding Mental Health
TikTok can also exacerbate mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and loneliness due to the intense pressure to perform and the need for constant approval from followers. Cyberbullying and trolling can also be significant factors that affect children’s mental health on the platform.
Worried about TikTok’s potential risks? The Kids360 app offers comprehensive parental control features, allowing you to monitor and protect your child’s online activity. From screen time management to content filtering, Kids360 has you covered!
One More Risk? Scams
If the list above seemed like more than enough things to worry about as a parent, here’s another one—scams.
On TikTok, teens are often encouraged to follow and like certain accounts with a promise of getting more followers or likes in return. The scammers will ask for access to their TikTok account or require them to complete tasks, such as downloading a certain app or filling out a survey, in exchange for more followers or likes.
However, these promises are usually empty, and the scammers end up taking control of the user’s TikTok account or using their personal information for malicious activity.
Romance scams are another major risk on TikTok. Scammers will create fake profiles of attractive individuals to trick teenagers into believing they are entering into a romantic relationship. The scammer will then ask for money or personal information, such as bank details or contact details, with false promises of meeting in the future.
Investment scams have made their way onto TikTok as well. Scammers will try to persuade young adults to invest their money into get-rich-quick schemes that are too good to be true. They may provide testimonials and convincing videos to lure in their targets, but in reality, the investment is a scam, and the scammer ends up stealing their money.
And of course, phishing scams can happen anywhere, and TikTok is no exception. Scammers use phishing tactics in an attempt to steal account credentials and other personal information. They may impersonate a service provider, a friend, or even a celebrity in an attempt to lure your children into giving out their personal information.
Read more on How to Keep Your Kids Safe from TikTok Scams.
Guide: Tweaking TikTok for Maximum Safety
Is TikTok bad news for your child’s online safety? Not if you maintain an open dialogue and set clear boundaries around their usage.
Here are a few ways you can adjust the settings on TikTok to make sure everybody stays safe.
The first step to secure TikTok is to change the privacy settings. TikTok’s default settings permit your child’s profile and videos to be publicly accessible.
We recommend changing the privacy settings to “account private” to eliminate the risk of your child’s profile and videos being seen by strangers on the internet.
Other privacy settings you can tweak on TikTok include disabling the ability for other active users to download your child’s videos, enabling comments only from friends, and blocking unwanted followers.
How Do I Make TikTok Child Friendly? It’s Simple: Use Parental Control Apps
The second step is to install parental control apps on your child’s device. One app that we recommend is Kids360. The app allows you to block access to any social media apps, including TikTok. You can also set a screen time limit, track your child’s phone usage, and monitor web browsing history.
Ready to keep your child safe on TikTok? Download Kids360 now for worry-free parenting!
VPN stands for virtual private network. It provides an encrypted connection between your device and the internet. When you connect to a VPN, your device’s IP address is hidden from websites and people can no longer track your physical location. Many users will find this feature valuable.
A VPN secures your internet activities from prying eyes and provides an additional layer of security when browsing TikTok. We recommend using a paid VPN service such as NordVPN or SurfShark.
While TikTok is a fun and entertaining platform, it is essential to be cautious and aware of the risks that come with it.
As a parent, it’s important to speak to your kids about the risks of TikTok and help them understand how to stay safe while using the app. Keeping yourself informed and up to date with the latest issues on TikTok and educating your children is the best way to protect them—and the Kids360 app can help you set reasonable limits.
Remember, your children’s safety is a top priority, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
What is the risk of TikTok?
TikTok has had its fair share of controversies, including concerns related to data privacy, misleading content, and inappropriate usage among children. Many of these issues are easily mitigated, but understand, as a parent, that things like cyberbullying, online predators, and inappropriate content are very real privacy concerns.
Can TikTok track you?
TikTok collects a lot of data, including an algorithm to personalize the “For You” page, which is TikTok’s main discovery section. While TikTok does collect some personal information such as location, device used, and app settings, there is no evidence to indicate it’s any more invasive than other apps.
Why is TikTok getting banned in the US?
The US government alleges that TikTok poses a national security risk and could steal user data. While nothing has been determined, the United States has threatened to ban TikTok in the country.
Can TikTok access everything on your phone?
Does TikTok have access to my personal information?
TikTok can access some personal information, such as your device information, location, and content you post publicly, like videos and comments. However, TikTok has denied any allegations that they collect any more data than necessary and that all user’s data are secure and stored on TikTok’s servers in the United States.
Is it safe to give TikTok your ID?
TikTok does not ask for verification qualifications such as an ID and does not ask for proof of date of birth upon sign-up.
Is TikTok owned by China?
TikTok’s parent company ByteDance Ltd. was founded by Chinese entrepreneurs, but today, about 60% of the company is owned by global institutional investors outside of China.
Should I allow my kid to have TikTok?
As a parent, the decision to allow your child to have TikTok ultimately depends on your comfort level with the app and your child’s maturity level. While TikTok has measures in place to ensure younger users’ safety, it is not foolproof.
Does TikTok influence kids?
TikTok can influence kids, just like any other social media platform, as children are exposed to a wide range of content on TikTok, including songs, dances, challenges, and tutorials. This exposure can be both positive and negative, depending on the content’s quality and appropriateness.
Which is safer: TikTok or Instagram?
Both apps have their safety features, but it’s essential to note that neither is 100% safe. The safety of your child will depend on how you set up and monitor their use of either app.
The picture on the front page: Ilina Yuliia/Shutterstock.com
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