My 11-year-old son came home from school a few weeks ago and said, “Dad, I saw something weird on a friend’s phone today.” Upon further conversation, he shared that while this friend watched TikTok videos, he stumbled upon some inappropriate content and showed it to others around him. Thankfully, my son opened up about it with me, and we were able to have a positive albeit serious conversation.
As a student pastor for the past 13 years, I’ve witnessed the impact of cell phone use on our youth and now upon my own family. It’s hard to keep up with the latest trends in cell phone apps, but one of the most popular is TikTok. TikTok is a social media platform that allows people to edit videos, lip-sync, and create videos to post and share. Most users are between 14 and 24, but anyone can sign up. The videos on it are usually under a minute long, but users scroll for hours watching them. A lot of the content on TikTok is harmless, but there are some dangers parents need to be aware of. Here are 3 dangers of TikTok to monitor if you allow your child to have the app.
1. Privacy Concerns
Be aware that privacy concerns aren’t unique to TikTok. Most social media apps collect data on users, so it’s wise to know what you agree to. TikTok doesn’t just collect data on videos you share but also on content you created but didn’t share. The data TikTok collects can include phone numbers, email addresses, locations, and even your contact list. This may not seem like a big deal, but parents need to realize if hackers can get access to personal data, they can attempt phishing scams and stalking. More and more students are building “relationships” with people over the internet. It’s challenging to discern whether these are good people or people intending to harm. The bigger the digital footprint a person has, the less privacy he or she has.
2. Inappropriate Content
As I mentioned earlier, you need to be aware of a plethora of inappropriate content on TikTok. Suggestive material and pornography are two examples, but you can imagine the wide range of videos users can create that you may not want your kids viewing. Of course, this danger isn’t unique to TikTok, so any social media app your kids have has the possibility of exposing your kids to inappropriate content. You can set filters for offensive comments and keywords for these apps, but be aware that they’re not always accurate and can’t catch everything.Handing your kids full social media access today without any guidance is a recipe for disaster.
3. Dangerous Influences
As if inappropriate content weren’t bad enough, TikTok is notorious for “challenges.” These challenges become trends that kids participate in to attempt to gain viewers and likes. Most of us have heard of the Tide Pod challenge, which involved kids trying to eat a Tide Pod. But there are other dangerous trends, too, like the hot water challenge, which has kids throw hot, boiling water on each other. Then there’s the blackout challenge—users choke themselves until they black out and lose consciousness. TikTok sometimes removes these videos, but not before the trends have gone viral and damage is already done.
These are just a few of the dangers of social media apps like TikTok. As a parent, it’s wise to have continual conversations with your kids and be open with them about these dangers. Handing your kids full social media access today without any guidance is a recipe for disaster.
Sound off: How do you protect your kids from the dangers of social media?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think are some of the dangers of social media?”