It’s no secret that I love Tiktok.
When it first came out, I was very scoffing about it. Another social media site, full of silly videos and people prancing around. I also heard things about data sharing and safety so wasn’t that keen.
Then Covid lockdown hit and one evening in about the April of the first lockdown, the husband and I downloaded Tiktok when we were bored one evening to see what all the fuss was about. Much to our children’s despair because apparently you can’t be over 40 and use it.
Fast forward a few months and I found myself slightly hooked on Turkish soap operas on there but also found some incredibly uplifting, funny, educational, inspriational and helpful accounts there. The ADHD community on Tiktok is second to none, and there are some great cooking, home and educational accounts there. There are also some very funny and humourous people on the app.
I really enjoy it. I tend to stick to the lighthearted side although I do dip in and out of more serious areas.
To be honest, I don’t worry about the data sharing thing, or the rumours that the Chinese government is using Tiktok to take over the world and now knows what kind of toothpaste I use, etc. If you use social media or any kind of platform these days your data is mined. Facebook wants to own you and run your life, I personally don’t think Tiktok is any worse.
But, what I can tell you is that it is a very adult site, and I don’t let my children access it and neither of them have accounts and won’t for a long time. We tend to have quite a strict social media policy in our house anyway, with our oldest only just sliding into a heavily supervised taste of Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp, with our younger child not using any platforms at all and not for a long time to come.
Instagram and Facebook target you with things they think you want to see, but you can filter and also choose, and their algorithm is much less vague. With Instagram you tend to see things that are simillar to what you already like and view, within reason. Adult content, by which I mean anything related to sex, self harming, mental health issues, relationships etc tends to be more heavily filtered and monitored there.
Tiktok, is frankly a bit of a free for all, and if you accidently watch or click onto a video or use the wrong hashtag you may be exposed to content you hadn’t planned on watching. It also quickly moves from an account you may be following to someone you are not following and content you may not want to see. There doesn’t seem to be any way to modify or moderate that and it leaves you exposed.
For example, I clicked on a post about a true crime story. I watched it, it was interesting. Tiktok then decided I liked horror, gore and proper heavy crime stuff and I kept seeing stuff in my feed that I really DID not want to see. I had to keep pushing the “not interested” button and blocking accounts. Very little phases me but it was annoying that I was seeing stuff I didn’t want to, and some of what you will find on Tiktok might not be helpful to you, depending on what you are dealing with in life.
They have claimed to be tighter on areas around say eating disorders, self harm, some very adult content and also bullying but the reality is they haven’t and it’s still there and easy to find. Even our daughter’s school had to have Tiktok remove accounts that were sharing information about the school, using the platform to try and harass teachers and bully kids at the school, and bullying and harassment is a huge issue on Titkok generally.
I personally don’t think it’s a safe space for kids, and in fact some adults too.
My advice would be if your child is on Tiktok is to
- make sure you know exactly who they are following, what they are watching and who is following them.
- Make them have a private account and screen followers
- Disable messaging, tagging and the ability for other users to share their content or reuse it and tag them
- Set time limits and the adult filters up as tightly as possible.
- Be with them when they use it
- Make sure they know they can talk to you about anything they see or may be exposed to there and that you will help and support them.
- Explain the dangers of grooming, talking to strangers, sharing information with people you don’t know and that if anyone asks for information, photos or details from you to never share them. Make sure they know that not everyone is who they seem on a screen and that they never meet up with someone from social media in real life unless it’s someone they actually know or you know them.
- Create your own account and follow your kids, and see what they are up to and sharing and who they interact with.
Better still, don’t let them be on there.
We get around the amusement factor with Tiktok by me downloading things I think are suitable for my kids and sharing that with them, so they can view it but not on the app.
Tiktok has many positives but it really is just for grown ups, and needs careful using and managing. If your child is on there and you aren’t fully aware of what they are doing or who they are interacting with, then you need to think again.
I love the platform but I am not naive. If it impacts me and I find it hard to feel safe, then why would I let my kids use it?
If you would like to follow me there we are CatsKidsChaos – I mostly share cooking, days out and a few other bits and pieces. My children don’t feature there and I am pretty careful about who I follow but if you are there, come say hi…