Child Safety OnlineMar 02, 2020

7 TikTok Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know

7 TikTok Safety Tips Every Parent Should Know

TikTok is the wildly popular social media platform where users can watch and post short videos. By the end of 2019, it had more than 1.5 billion downloads and 500 million active users worldwide. And, TikTok is quickly becoming the go-to app for younger users—understandably leaving a lot of parents with a lot of questions. Below, we explain the ins and outs of the app and share some tips to help parents make the app as safe as possible for their children.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is basically a continuous feed of bite-sized videos—and as soon as you install and open the app, you’ll find yourself scrolling content. While you can watch videos without creating an account, you need to sign up to access other features—like posting your own videos, sending messages or reacting to videos. Users can toggle between two streams on their home feed—one “For You,” which shows you featured videos, or “Following,” which shows you videos from accounts you’re following.

Music features heavily in TikTok content, and a lot of videos showcase dance routines and lip-syncing. Other movement-based videos (think: gymnastics and cheerleading) are also big on the platform, as well as comedy skits, time-lapse videos and other creative content. The platform is also known for its hashtag challenges—where users film their unique take on the same thing—like belting out a song in their school bathroom or dancing creatively up a set of stairs or countless other seemingly random things. Some hashtags are created by TikTok, some are community-generated and others are advertising campaigns paid for by companies.

How safe is TikTok?

The platform has a 13+ age restriction in its Terms of Service, though younger users are technically allowed on if they have permission from a parent or guardian. That said, parents are well advised to stick to the age limit because there is a lot of mature content on TikTok and plenty of opportunities to connect with strangers. To help decide if your kid is ready for TikTok, check out our list of pros and cons. And if they’re taking the TikTok plunge, check out our tips below for how to make the platform as safe as possible.

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Safety Tip 1: Make a private account

One of the most important ways to keep yourself safe in the app is to make sure your account is private. This way, it’s more difficult for strangers to find and reach out to you on TikTok. By default, all accounts are public when they’re created, so you’ll need to follow these steps to change your settings:

  1. On the profile screen, tap the three dots in the top right corner
  2. Select Privacy and Settings, and then Privacy and Safety
  3. Under Discoverability, switch the toggle to make the account private. This makes it so only approved followers can see and like your posts. It also disables the “Duet” feature that lets two different users record one video in a split-screen, and prevents other users from “Reacting” to your videos. Finally, when a profile is private, other users aren’t able to download videos you post, even if they’re approved followers
  4. To make an account even more private, you can disable “Allow others to find me,” which stops TikTok from suggesting that other users follow you

Safety Tip 2: Turn off post comments

When users have a private account, strangers shouldn’t be able to see their posts—but turning off post commenting is an additional safety measure to consider. It also eliminates any opportunity for users in your follower list to leave hurtful or inappropriate words. Follow these steps to disable this feature:

  1. On the profile screen, tap the three dots in the top right corner
  2. Select Privacy and Settings, and then Privacy and Safety
  3. Under Safety, tap “Who can post comments” and select “Off”

Safety Tip 3: Enable comment filters

If you’ve opted to allow comments on your videos, you can enable filters that will automatically hide anything that might be spammy or offensive. While it’s virtually impossible to catch every mean-spirited comment, this feature certainly helps. There are two options to filter, outlined below:

  1. On the profile screen, tap the three dots in the top right corner
  2. Select Privacy and Settings, and then Privacy and Safety
  3. Under Safety, tap “Comment filters” and switch the toggle to filter spam and offensive content. You can also switch the toggle on “Filter keywords” and create your own list of specified words

Safety Tip 4: Disable messages

Having a private profile doesn’t mean that strangers can’t send you messages. You also need to make sure that your message settings are updated to prevent unknown people from reaching out. You can either set it so that only “Friends” can message—or you can disable messages entirely. Keep in mind, however, that if you send a message to a stranger, that essentially opens the door for both parties to send many messages as they want. Follow these steps to restrict or disable messages:

  1. On the profile screen, tap the three dots in the top right corner
  2. Select Privacy and Settings, and then Privacy and Safety
  3. Under Safety, tap “Who can send you messages” and select “Friends” if you want to keep to approved followers, or “Off” if you want to disable them

Safety Tip 5: Keep “liked” videos private

When you visit a user profile on TikTok, you don’t just see the videos they’ve posted—you can also see which videos they’ve liked. Unless you disable this setting, it’s possible for anyone to track your likes—which is probably an unnecessary level of insight into your online behavior. To keep this private, follow these steps:

  1. On the profile screen, tap the three dots in the top right corner
  2. Select Privacy and Settings, and then Privacy and Safety
  3. Under Safety, tap “Who can view videos I liked” and select “Only me”

Safety Tip 6: Turn on the in-app Screen Time Management

TikTok is certainly entertaining—so much so that time can fly by without you noticing. In order to keep an eye on your overall app use (and cut back on your zombie scrolling), you can enable TikTok’s in-app Screen Time Management. Although the minimum limit is high at 40 minutes, this feature is passcode enabled—meaning this is one setting that parents can enable on their kids’ profiles—and kids can’t change it without a four-digit code. Here’s how to set it up:

  1. On the profile screen, tap the three dots in the top right corner
  2. Select Privacy and Settings, and then Digital Wellbeing
  3. Tap Screen Time Management and then select your time limit: 40m, 60m, 90m, or 120m
  4. Set and confirm your four-digit password

Safety Tip 7: Use Restricted Mode

TikTok’s age restriction is 13+ and we definitely recommend that parents take heed. But if your kid has a profile and they’re in that younger age range, it’s a good idea to use Restricted Mode. This helps filter out more adult content, but be warned: it’s not a fool-proof setting.

So, it’s highly likely that even with this setting enabled, mature content will slip through and parents should take that into consideration:

  1. On the profile screen, tap the three dots in the top right corner
  2. Select Privacy and Settings, and then Digital Wellbeing
  3. Tap Restricted Mode and enter or set your four-digit password

TikTok is currently rolling out Family Safety Mode, which allows parents to connect their own TikTok account to their kid’s. (And yes, parents will need to download and sign up for TikTok to use this feature.) Once connected, this allows them to turn on Screen Time Management and Restricted Mode, and monitor and disable direct messages through their own settings, without needing access to their kid’s profile. This feature is currently live in some markets—and will be rolling out in others soon.

But even when you have the tightest-possible safety and privacy settings, nothing replaces an open dialogue with your children. When they’re ready to join TikTok, it’s important that they understand why online privacy and safety matter—and what to do if they encounter an upsetting or dangerous situation. And it’s also important to remember that kids are more than capable of updating their own settings whenever they choose, so there needs to be a level of trust and maturity involved as well.