How to Protect Your Kids on TikTok
Remember what it was like to get your first car? These days, that’s exactly how kids feel when they get their first kids phone. To many kids, a phone represents freedom.
TikTok is now the fastest-growing social media platform in the world.
With over 138 million active users in the U.S., it is worth being aware of as a parent.
This is even more important when you consider that the people using TikTok tend to be young–the single largest segment of TikTok users (32.5%) are between 10 and 19.
Even if your kids don’t have their own TikTok account, videos can be easily shared to other platforms like Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube, so chances are good your kids have seen plenty of TikTok videos without even downloading the app.
It’s tough to keep up with every new internet trend but this is not one to ignore. TikTok is a unique threat to online safety and your child’s digital wellbeing, particularly for younger users.
There are various parental controls and approaches available for protecting kids on TikTok which we’ll cover below, but none of them are foolproof.
Frankly, the best approach for younger teens is to keep them off of the app entirely.
If you feel your child is ready for a device but you’re not ready to open the internet to them, we suggest the Gabb Phone or Gabb Watch. These devices are excellent as your child wades into the digital world for the first time because they give kids everything they need, while leaving out the rest.
Why is TikTok bad for kids?
Digital threats like graphic content, excessive screen time, cyberbullying, and other inappropriate communication aren’t unique to TikTok. But TikTok is already proving uniquely capable of exposing users to them.
TikTok is a social media app that describes itself as an “endless stream” of “short-form videos [that] are exciting, spontaneous, and genuine.” And it definitely delivers on that description.
A 2020 study showed that TikTok content appears to be especially addictive for kids: users between 4 and 15 are spending an average of 80 minutes a day watching TikTok videos.
Spend just a few minutes on TikTok and it isn’t hard to see why.
The platform’s special effect filters, stickers, and easy integration of music makes it simple for anyone to create short, stimulating videos. Many of those videos are harmless and genuinely fun, interesting, and entertaining. But many are a complete waste of time, or far worse.
In addition to concerns about excessive screen time, TikTok poses a special threat when it comes to delivering inappropriate content to your children.
The app does include features designed to protect children but none do the job well enough to offer much peace of mind to parents of children who aren’t prepared.
Your children are growing up in a digital world so they will eventually need to confront the reality that these dangers are at their fingertips. That’s why teaching kids to safely use technology is a crucial responsibility today and why Gabb was created.
If you aren’t confident that your child is ready to deal with the dangers of TikTok, your best option is a safe device that keeps them away from it altogether. If your child has reached an appropriate maturity level to deal with these threats, you will still want to be aware of parental controls that enable restrictions to help keep them “TikTok safe.”
Making TikTok Safe For Kids
TikTok has an age rating of 12+ so the app is technically not available for kids under 13. We say “technically” because a younger child could simply sign up with a fake birthdate to bypass this.
For kids 13 and older, TikTok offers a parental control feature called Family Pairing that allows you to link your own TikTok account to your child’s account. After pairing your accounts, you will then be able to enable several helpful controls.
TikTok’s Family Pairing for Younger Users
- Screen Time Management: Allows you to control how much time your child spends on TikTok each day.
- Search Restrictions: Allows you to make decisions on content, hashtags, sounds, or accounts your kid can search for.
- Private Account: Allows you to set your child’s account to private so they are not discoverable through the platform’s search function.
- Direct Messaging: Direct Messaging is automatically turned off for users aged 13-15. If your kid is 16+, you can choose to keep it off or restrict who can send them messages (everyone or friends only).
- Commenting: Allows you to pick the accounts that can comment on your child’s videos.
- Restricted Mode: Allows you to enable a filter meant to keep inappropriate content out of your child’s feed. (See more on this below.)
Restricted Mode on TikTok
Restricted Mode is a setting that can be toggled on to automatically filter out content from your child’s feed that may not be appropriate for young audiences.
Like most online filters, it is never going to catch everything objectionable–especially given troubling TikTok trends and the constantly shifting use of emojis to mask inappropriate communication.
It should at least catch the bulk of explicit language, nudity (which is allowed on the platform), and other graphic content.
You can turn on Restricted Mode through your profile page or your child’s profile page. Once there, simply click on the three dots in the top right corner then click “Digital Wellbeing.” You’ll then see Restricted Mode as an option with additional steps to follow.
Keeping Your Kids Safe
You know your child better than anyone so you will be the best to decide when they’re ready for apps like TikTok.
It’s an inexact science, even for the most attuned parents, so check out our free Parent Resources center for helpful ideas as you consider when to make important tech decisions with your kids.
If you feel your child isn’t quite ready for social media and internet on their own device, take a look at the Gabb Phone and Gabb Watch. Gabb offers the safest kid tech in the world because, unlike adult devices that add parental controls as an afterthought, kids are our first thought.
Sharon on Mar 14, 2023 11:07 PM
So there are no safeguards for who they talk with and no monitoring re: to texting inappropriate things or bullying etc. What about depression, suicide messages or even violent? What are safeguards for sending or receiving inappropriate pictures? I have a lot of questions as I have had Foster kids beside my own kids.
Gabb on Mar 17, 2023 01:18 PM
We understand how concerning that can be! We do have Gabb Guard which is our proprietary filtration service that actively combats spam through advanced phone call and text filtration and prevents most profanity, spam, and links from ever reaching the Gabb device and we are constantly improving this! We will also be looking into adding more monitoring on the parent's end to allow for more protection for kids!