WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
TIKTOK is a lively social network built around creating, sharing, and searching for user-created music videos. Users can upload videos of themselves singing, lip-synching, dancing, or performing some kind of stunt. Ongoing challenges spur users to create content related to a particular theme, and users can integrate their own videos with another user's with the Duet feature.
Simple stickers, filters, and augmented reality (AR) animations can be added to videos, and users can livestream themselves and interact directly with online audiences via chat. Users can set their videos to private or share them publicly. If shared publicly, videos can be viewed, commented upon, or remixed by other users. An in-app store lets users purchase in-app currency that can be used to buy digital "gift" icons for their favorite livestreamers. If a user is under 13, they can enter their birthdate to access a separate area that only allows them to watch curated videos and not post, comment, or search.
IS IT ANY GOOD?
The idea behind this musical social network is great, but the features are sometimes buggy, and teens should adjust the privacy settings before using. With cool features for searching for content, sharing your own videos, and remixing work from other users, there's terrific potential for TikTok to be a creative social space. That being said, because it's all about popular music, lyrics often contain swearing and sexual references, and many parents have reported finding explicit sexual content and content referencing self-harm.
The new password-protected Digital Well-Being setting limits kids to two hours with the app per day, and Restricted Mode helps (but doesn't totally prevent) kids from finding inappropriate content. Privacy and Safety settings are still imperfect; users still can't delete accounts themselves, and if accounts aren't made Private from the start, kids could retain unwanted followers. Additionally, while the section of the app for users under 13 restricts the experience to filter out mature content and comments -- and even prevents them from posting videos themselves -- it only requires entering a birthdate, which is easy to circumvent. These restrictions may also take most of the fun out of the app for some kids. Still, for kids 16 and up who can better handle the mature content (and don't mind the iffy interface that makes it hard to see your own videos at times), it can be a fun diversion -- provided fame doesn't become an obsession.
TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT ...
- Families can talk about family rules for privacy and social networks. Talk about when it's OK to share information and what kind of information should be kept private. What are your rules around your kid using Tik Tok - including musical.ly? Can your kid share videos publicly or only with friends?
- Before downloading, discuss your family's rules around profanity and sexual references in music. What are your teens allowed to listen to? What kinds of videos can they post?
- Talk about songs that might be fun to lip-synch to and how you can get creative with that 15-second time limit for videos. Think about what kinds of movements or dance might work well within that time frame.