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TikTok: Are parents right to be worried?

TikTok also appears to be a source of misinformation claiming to be medical advice.

TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance is Chinese, is under pressure on both sides of the Atlantic. — © AFP Punit PARANJPE
TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance is Chinese, is under pressure on both sides of the Atlantic. — © AFP Punit PARANJPE

Are some social media sites more concerning to parents than others? It would appear that TikTok is the platform parents are most concerned about, at least in the U.S. and if Internet searches are anything to go by. TikTok is currently the most popular of the social media apps with younger people.

In a recent period there were an estimated 5,100 online searches asking if TikTok is safe, made from U.S. homes, by far the greatest number in terms of social media accounts. This comes from an assessment by the company Canopy.us, who have collated Google search volume data relating to the safety of various social media platforms.

According to the associated report, Canopy.us analysed search volume data by inputting the phrase ‘Is [insert social media platform] safe?’. In doing this, the social media platform that was found to be most worrying was revealed.

The outcomes were:

  • Is TikTok safe?           5,100
  • Is Snapchat safe?        2,300
  • Is Reddit safe?            2,000
  • Is Instagram safe?       1,000
  • Is Twitter safe?           300
  • Is Facebook safe?       250
  • Is YouTube safe?        200
  • Is Twitch safe?            150

One of the identified concerns with TikTok is that the app learns from the users’ habits, through its algorithm, and continually creates a personalized experience designed to increase use and data input.

Another parental concern is through the presence of predators contacting children on TikTok are of great concern to parents. There have also been countless TikTok challenges that have spread across the platform, some of these endangering children.

TikTok also appears to be a source of misinformation claiming to be medical advice. For instance, a recent borax trend sweeping over the platform has been influencing users to treat various ailments by consuming laundry-boosting borax.

To counter some of these concerns, TikTok has a ‘Family Safety Mode’ and ‘Screentime Management’ mode. These enable parents to determine how long each day a kid can spend on TikTok and with whom they can communicate in direct.

To use Family Safety Mode, a parent must link their own account (so you must create one) to their child’s account. A parent and a child then need to open the app simultaneously and select “digital wellbeing” in the settings. At that point, you will determine which device belongs to the parent and which device belongs to the child. The parent can begin choosing the settings they think are appropriate for the child, and the child cannot alter them.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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