First it was checking in on Facebook, then posting on Instagram to tweeting on Twitter. Now, its lip syncing on TikTok!

This is just another addition to the technological journey most of our children are on, but what is TikTok and what are the pros and cons of our children interacting on it, often day in and day out? With over 700 million users, TikTok is one of the more popular apps on teenagers’ mobile devices at the moment. It is an application that users can record and share 15 second videos on, of themselves lip syncing and dancing to popular music, with the option of live streaming videos as well – think Karaoke night meets Lip Sync Battle. Users are encouraged to like, comment and follow others videos and this is where the problems start coming in.

Social validation and vanity metrics are there for companies to measure their popularity for marketing purposes, but it can also put an overwhelming amount of pressure on children and sometimes negatively impact their already fragile self-esteems. Similarly, viral “challenges” are extremely popular on TikTok and spread rapidly. These activity challenges often encourage dangerous behaviour, as children try to copy and out do their friends and even complete strangers on the platform. We do not even need to delve into cyberbullying, as its obvious how the app lends itself to online abuse.

"The app however is not all doom and gloom..."

Perhaps the biggest concern about our children using TikTok is the fact all users information is accessible to anyone and everyone, regardless of whether or not privacy settings are turned on. It is therefore strongly advised that children do not share photos and certainly not personal information on their profiles. In fact, the application was actually never designed for children, which leaves them particularly vulnerable to any ill-meaning users.

The app however is not all doom and gloom and clearly has its advantages for our children. Many children has discovered their flare for the creative arts, as they choreograph their own dance moves and are inspired by others videos. The social aspect naturally appeals to children and can make them feel like they are part of a community, where they can connect with friends and share their unique creations with likeminded users. TikTok played a very useful role these past few months during lockdown. When some children might have otherwise felt very disconnected and isolated from the world and their friends, their phones were a source of entertainment and friendship.

In fairness to TikTok, they have made efforts to safeguard their younger users, by increasing the number of their moderators and are constantly looking at ways to improve security features. Here are a few things parents can also do to implement their own safety features from home:

  1. Use TikTok’s new Family Safety mode, which allows you to create your own account and link it to your children’s. This way you can monitor their content and connections.
  2. Read reviews on TikTok regularly and keep up-to-date with changes to privacy settings, as well as any new features they can limit what your children have access too.
  3. Talk to your children and discuss the dangers of these apps. While you don’t want your children living in fear, you do want to equip them with knowledge and common sense.
  4. Know what you are dealing with! We cannot stop our children from using technology and we shouldn’t want to, but we do need to keep educating ourselves on what our children are doing and seeing on their phones.