A parent’s guide to TikTok

If your kid has been significantly more ‘dancy’ recently, then it probably has something to do with TikTok.

According to the first link that I found after a dismal Google search, TikTok is “a Chinese video-sharing social networking service owned by ByteDance. It is used to create short dance, lip-sync, comedy and talent videos.” (I know what you’re thinking – ‘I sincerely hope his reference to the app being Chinese is relevant.’)

Essentially, TikTok is a social media platform that enables users to create and watch short videos. The videos are often some type of performance, like a dance or a lip-sync or sometimes just a joke with a backing track. “Jokes are way better when they have a backing track,” is essentially TikTok’s trademark slogan.

Good things about TikTok:

  • Young people might get better at learning and performing dances.
  • They may also improve their dramatic skills, as well as learn some basic videography.
  • Young people may creatively come up with funny concepts that the world might approve of.

Bad things about TikTok:

  • Heaps of the content isn’t necessarily filtered or age-appropriate.
  • It over-sexualises pretty much everything.
  • Literally anyone can end up watching anything, which includes strangers being able to watch your kids videos and then send messages to them.
  • The Chinese government might end up owning all of your data. (Phew, it was relevant)

Neither good nor bad:

  • TikTok is commonly the sound associated with clocks, however the app has very little to do with clocks.
  • Tik Tok is also a relatively well-known song by Ke$ha.

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The same, but different

The big difference between Instagram, Facebook and TikTok is that on both Facebook and Instagram, a user essentially curates their own ‘feed’, that is your feed is built around the types of people and things that you follow. With TikTok, however, the feed is called the ‘For You Page’, and essentially TikTok curates this page ‘for you’. What this means is that the content the user ends up seeing is chosen based on the most popular videos on TikTok. And that means young people are often exposed to humour, ideas, dances and content that they may not have stumbled upon in more traditional forms of social media.

If you feel lost about what your child is even doing on this app, or any app for that matter, then familiarise yourself with it. This might mean having a scroll through TikTok on your child’s device or perhaps even downloading it for yourself. (Unless you don’t want to risk the Chinese knowing all your secrets.)

The modern smartphone is an incredibly powerful device, but you have an even more powerful device – your fully developed adult brain. You can see risks better than your young person and you have the wisdom that a Google search doesn’t. Your voice is still important when talking about social media, even if you don’t feel relevant.

To TikTok, or not to TikTok…

The internet is a scary, entertaining and informative place full of talented dancers and creepy strangers. The best way to help your children learn how to navigate this new world is to stay involved in their world. Some people think that if you just never let your kids use TikTok, then they will be safe. Some people think that kids need to work it out for themselves so they give their 10-year-old an iPhone, send them to their room and hope for the best. Somewhere between those two options seems to be the best place to be.

So stay connected – not to the internet, but to your child. Stay informed, not by TikTok or the Chinese government, but by articles like this. And stay classy, like Ron Burgundy or Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard.

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