kids

'My daughter isn't allowed to have TikTok. Here's why.'

This post mentions suicide and may be triggering to some readers. 

'Mum, a girl in my class watched a guy kill himself yesterday.'

This was my very open and honest 10-year-old daughter bursting through the front door after school last September.

The person she was referring to was Ronnie McNutt, the man whose suicide video went viral across multiple popular social media platforms last year.

How 'proud parent syndrome' affects your child's cyber-safety. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

It’s the very video that started as a livestream on Facebook, before spreading to Instagram, YouTube and Twitter like wildfire.

But it was none of these platforms that the kids at my daughter’s school watched it on. The culprit was TikTok.

Originally intended for users to have fun creating and sharing short dances and lip-syncing videos, TikTok has grown into a more sinister environment used to stalk and groom children, post vulgar and inappropriate content, and encourage participation in degrading and often dangerous activities.

I feel like I’m pretty 'up there' with social media, and because of this, my daughter doesn’t have access to many of the popular apps and games currently being accessed by her classmates. She sits with that pretty okay, but TikTok is a whole other beast. 

Almost weekly, I am bombarded with claims of her being the only kid in the whole school who isn’t on TikTok, that she can’t join in on dances the other girls are doing, or watch videos by certain influencers - who she’s only aware of due to sleepovers, playdates, and constant discussions at school.

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I’m told I’m the mean mum. That such-and-such’s mum lets her do whatever she likes. But I like to remind my daughter that maybe such-and-such’s mum isn’t fully aware of the broadness of TikTok, and the potential dangers it poses.

So no, my daughter isn’t allowed to have TikTok. Here's why:

1. She is 10 years old.

As far as I’m concerned, no child needs to be on social media at the age of 10. It is not necessary and does not enhance their lives one little bit.

2. There is nothing to stop predators from grooming kids.

TikTok’s current recommendation for an account is 13-plus but without anything in place to verify someone’s age when they sign up, there is absolutely nothing stopping adults from pretending to be kids so that they can interact with them via the direct message or comments section of the app.

On the flip side, there is nothing stopping younger kids from lying about their birth date to get an account set up on the app. 

For kids who aren’t old enough to understand the potential risks or behaviour to be wary of, this can be incredibly dangerous.

3. You don’t need an account to watch TikTok videos.

That’s right, I don’t have a TikTok account, but I can still download the app and start watching other people’s TikTok videos as they roll on up. 

What’s the danger to my daughter? If she has an account and shares videos of herself, absolutely anyone can watch them. ANYONE. 

It also means that my daughter (and any other child) can technically watch videos posted by other users and potentially be exposed to inappropriate content, including that of a sexually explicit or violent nature.

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4. There are harmful viral challenges.

The idea of my daughter being exposed to and participating in online challenges scares me to death.

While some challenges on TikTok can be completely harmless, like the Ice Bucket Challenge, they can also be outright dangerous, like the Momo Challenge and the Blue Whale Challenge, where kids are encouraged to hurt themselves and others.

If the seed isn’t planted, it can’t grow, and these are definitely not seeds that my daughter needs to water.

5. Screenshot notifications don’t exist.

On Snapchat, users are notified when someone screenshots a message or image that they have sent them.

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However, on TikTok, this setting doesn't exist, meaning anyone can take a screenshot of a TikTok video without the owner of the video knowing.

6. It’s rife with cyberbullying.

According to a 2021 survey by Mamamia, cyberbullying is the number one concern for teachers in Australia when it comes to online safety for students. And like most social media platforms, TikTok provides a fertile ground for cyberbullying to establish itself. 

Whether its harmful opinions or comments by complete strangers or direct messages or comments by actual friends, TikTok is a breeding ground for online bullying. Similarly, body shaming is sadly also rife within the comments section on the platform.

I am not willing to expose my daughter to the possibility of being bullied online just so she can say that she is on TikTok. Her health, wellbeing, and self worth mean more to me than that.

These are just some of the concerns, as a parent, that I have with TikTok. My daughter might not understand now, but she will in time. I just keep the door open and discuss the associated dangers with her and answer any questions she may have.

I strongly encourage every parent to build an understanding of what their kids are doing and using online and whether they could be safer.

An online safety education course is an absolute must for parents in the current online climate. I learnt so many tips from the one I completed through Safe on Social. It taught me not only the many ins and outs of TikTok but also a whole host of other online apps and games, which really equipped me with the most current and up-to-date information available.

Kids will often be one step ahead of us. Don’t let them get completely away from you. The risk isn’t worth any reward.

Confused about Snapchat? Unsure about TikTok? Meet the Safe on Social Toolkit: the digital 'survival kit' designed to arm parents with everything they need to know about keeping their kids safe online. Find out more now at  www.safeonsocialtoolkit.com.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Feature Image: Getty.