You've seen the headlines about the dangers of TikTok, but is there really anything to worry about? I certainly think so!
If you aren't aware, TikTok is a popular social media app that allows users to create and share short videos, up to 60 seconds long, with music and effects. While it can be a fun and entertaining platform for some, it can also pose serious risks for children who use it. TikTok’s content can be highly inappropriate for children of all ages. The app's content can range from lighthearted humour to more mature topics. Videos can contain explicit language and sexual content, which can be upsetting and potentially damaging for younger viewers.
Although TikTok's terms and conditions require users to be 13 years old, it is relying on users' honesty to input their correct date of birth. As a young person, wanting to access material not designed for them, it would be very easy to input a different DOB to give the impression that they are older. TikTok has safeguards in place to restrict the content younger viewers can access, however this is only effective (and sometimes not - more on that in a moment) if each account is accurately set up.
Despite having age restrictions in place, the app uses machine learning to determine what content is and isn't appropriate for different aged audiences - your feed is then populated with content that they think you'll want to engage with. Sometimes, the machine learning gets this wrong and, even when set up properly, young people have accessed inappropriate content.
A large factor of TikTok's success, and something we should be very worried about, is the toxic content that is presented to our children under the guise of 'self help'. Andrew Tate, ex-kickboxer and social media star, is the perfect example of why we need to protect our young men (separate blog on this topic coming soon). Tate's content provides disassociated and lonely teenage boys with a reason to act out in misogynistic and violent manners, and justifying it to themselves as normalised behaviour because they have spent hours with their heads buried in TikTok watching Tate spout nonsense!
Recently, there have been concerns about how the app collects and uses user data. TikTok has been accused of collecting user data without proper consent, and there are worries that this data could be shared with third-party organisations or used for targeted advertising. The European Parliament, US and Canadian governments have banned the app on any government device due to mistrust and the app is banned outright in India! UK Conservative MP, Alicia Kearns, encouraged UK residents to delete the app due to security concerns.
Now, you might be saying to yourself that you don't have anything to hide - but do you want an app to track your phone usage? Do you want an app to know where you've been (your phone tracks you where you go!), what you spend your money on (banking app), your political allegiance (news sources), your medical history (The NHS app) or who you're nearest and dearest are? I certainly don't and I think that millions of users worldwide are being very naive about the potential misuse of this data.
I could write a PhD thesis on the dangers of TikTok and provide hundreds of reasons why parents shouldn't allow their children access to this toxic app, but I don't think I'd change anything if I did. As a society, we have the moral responsibility to look after one another and open this conversation at every opportunity.
Discussing these dangers with parents and students will be the first hurdle!
If you'd like to find out more about how you can protect children at home or in school, please don't hesitate to get in touch and find out more: email@example.com