If you’re the parent of a person under 20 who spends time online, chances are you’ve heard of something called ‘TikTok’.
If so, you’re probably generally aware that it’s an app which involves your child signing up and having their own account, and it seems to be about watching short videos of strangers doing… stuff.
Yep, another avenue for watching more internet content that makes precisely no sense to us. But, of course, that’s the entire point.
For parents who want to understand more about TikTok, and do their due diligence about its appropriateness for children, here’s an explainer.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is an app made for creating and sharing 15-second video content. Its target market is Generation Z, especially anyone under 20.
And anyone who is too cool for old-school Facebook or Instagram.
TikTok was launched in April 2014 as Musical.ly, which you may recall was a lip-syncing app. It became TikTok in August 2018.
TikTok now has 500 million users worldwide, making it one of the most popular social media apps. Its parent company, ByteDance, has surpassed Uber in being the world’s most successful start-up, and is now valued at over $100 billion.
What does TikTok do?
Here’s all you need to know as a parent: it’s about creating videos of kids doing anything they want, using filters, songs, and audio. There’s lots of ways to ‘play’ when creating the content, which is one of the reasons why users find it so fun.
The content on TikTok is known for being generally comic and quirky, which makes it entertaining to young minds.
The platform also makes it easy to consume a lot of content quickly; which is why it’s bingeable, and highly-addictive.
Users can like and comment on videos, which of course means that TikTok has its own set of influencers – known as ‘Musers’.
Top TikTok influencers, the Dobre twins, boast 17.1 million fans.
TikTok is now one of the most powerful apps for celebrities and artists, too, such as Cardi B, Jimmy Fallon and Amy Schumer.
You may have heard of the very popular song called Old Town Road by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. The song went viral via a meme on TikTok, and almost immediately hit the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.
Is TikTok safe for children?
The age minimum for users to have an account is 13 – but TikTok has been criticised for not diligently enforcing the limit, so there have been cases of kids as young as nine being on it.
Common Sense Media recommends that children don’t use TikTok until 16, but if they do, those under 13 be should supervised. One way to do that is to share an account with a child, using a parent’s name and email, so they can control access and privacy settings.