TikTok safety tips: Parents warned as predators 'flock' to popular online platforms
Whether it’s taking part in a new viral dance trend or watching videos of cute cats, short-form mobile video platform TikTok has become increasingly popular among teenagers.
As South Africa approaches Youth Day, the South African Police Service (SAPS) has urged parents to discuss online safety with their children.
"TikTok can be a safe place for kids 13 or older, but parents are encouraged to discuss online safety and best practices. It is up to the parents to talk to kids about appropriate content. Predators have been known to flock to places where there are many kids, and TikTok is no different," said SAPS in a statement on Facebook.
"Many online predators use the platform to contact and solicit children. Parents are encouraged to warn their kids about the online dangers of predators, regardless of what they do online."
Here are a few TikTok safety tips to keep your child from online danger.
Make sure you’re the right age
Before accessing TikTok, an age-gate measure is available at the sign-up stage to ensure only users aged 13 years and older can gain access to the platform. This is also emphasised in the Terms of Service.
Parents should note that TikTok has an app store rating of 12+ which means that parents can simply block it from their teen’s phone by using device-based parental controls if needed.
Beef up on privacy
TikTok accounts are set to public automatically, which means anyone can view or comment on your videos.
Users also have the option of setting their account to private which means when someone wants to follow you, you’ll need to approve them as a follower before they can see your content.
Users can also “block a user” so they won't be able to interact with you at all.
Parents are advised to work together with their teens to find the best interaction preference to ensure great user experience while on TikTok.
Limit screen time
TikTok's Screen Time Management function can be found in the privacy and settings options under the section "Digital Wellbeing".
This feature allows users to set a daily time limit and once the time is used up, a password needs to be entered to continue using the app.
Tips for parents: To ensure time spent on TikTok is monitored, parents should help teens set up a password. This will serve as a reminder that the time spent online has been used up.
Pay extra attention to profile
It’s good to note that even with private settings your profile photo, user name and bio are available to all TikTok users.
Avoid sharing personal information like your phone number, or your home or email address as these can increase the risk of identity theft, spam, and compromises your general safety. Keep personal information limited.
Enable Family Pairing for extra support and safety
This functionality allows parents and teens to customise their safety settings based on individual needs. Family Pairing will allow a parent to link their TikTok account to their teens’ and set controls including Screen Time Management, Restricted Mode and Direct Messages.
When parents know the signs to look for, they’re in a better position to help keep their kids safe both online and in real life.
Predators often target vulnerable children, such as those who are emotionally fragile or have less parental oversight.
Predators initiate conversations on public chat apps or in the chat section of games for children - where they know they will get a response.
The first interactions with the child are generally pleasant and include light conversation to lower defences and make target feel important.
The predator will then attempt to deepen the relationship while gauging the level of threat from the parents.
He/she might do this by asking how closely the child’s devices are monitored and try to figure out whether the child would be believed if they tell their parents about the interaction.
Pay attention to the child if their attitude changes when discussing what they do while they’re on their devices, as they they may become more secretive about their online activity.
This is when the predator might try to separate the child from their family by establishing himself as the most important person to them.
Once trust is developed, the groomer may use sexually explicit conversations to test boundaries and exploit a child’s natural curiosity about sex. Predators often use pornography and child pornography to lower a child’s inhibitions and use their adult status to influence and control a child’s behavior.