Our Complete Guide to TikTok
What are the key features of TikTok?
Variety Show Appeal
The random collection of videos always set to music is what makes Tik Tok so popular. From lip-syncing dogs to parent-child duos, daredevil stunts to arts and craft projects, the sole purpose of Tik Tok is to entertain. With the typical social media features–following, liking, sharing and commenting, users can hone their interests, and subsequently, Tik Tok’s algorithm.
The Focus on Viral Videos
TikTok draws users in by serving up the most popular videos immediately when you open the app. On the homepage page, the most viral submissions have been curated “For You” based on your age and usage history (e.g. what videos you’ve spent the most time watching, which ones you’ve liked or commented on).
The Under 13 User Experience
Tik Tok has created a more contained experience for children under 13 and offers parental controls which include a Restricted Mode and time limits.
Challenges and Hashtags
Tik Tok has successfully created a communal space where users throw out challenges to see who can ‘one-up” with the best video. These challenges incite fellow users to compete in dance-offs or share their best then versus now photos. Hashtags help users to find challenges, see what’s trending and discover what people are using to get featured in the For You section.
A timer enables users to film videos without having to continuously hold down the record button which is what makes these dancing videos possible. The spinning record makes it easy to identify which song a Tik Tok is featuring as well as to see other videos using the same song. An array of augmented reality effects can change the color of your hair or eyes and special effects can help erase dark shadows under your eyes. There are also special effects designed for dog and cat videos along with options to embed things like a delicious-looking slice of virtual pizza in a video
What Parents Should Know
The social media dynamics of Tik Tok are similar to the other major platforms. The number of followers can be serve as social proof of popularity, and the pursuit of likes can feed the cycle of external validation. Kids may be tempted to take more risks to get more likes or comments, especially if the goal is to get featured in the For You videos.
In TikTok, the default setting is that accounts are public. If your child’s account is public anyone can follow or direct message them. You can, however, prevent unwanted contact by limiting or turning off comments and direct messaging.
To make your child’s account private, you must take action. Your child will still be able to follow and direct message whomever they want, but they will have to approve any requests for someone to follow them. There are the same options to limit comments and direct messaging.
Self-Expression and Collaborative Fun
Making Tik Tok videos is a way for kids to express themselves, while also gaining a following and building a community around their passions. It can also be a fun way for kids to create together.
Risks of Inappropriate Content and Predatory Behavior
Tik Tok has found itself at the center of headlines recently between a record fine for illegally collecting data on children under 13 and concerns that it has a predator problem. In response to the criticism, Tik Tok has created a different experience for younger users which lets them experiment with TikTok’s fun features and save videos to their devices. However, Tik Tok won’t allow younger users to upload to the platform or use the direct messaging feature.
While Tik Tok has made these improvements, there’s still no way to regulate what videos your kids will see in the For You section. In theory, they are age-appropriate for younger users, but there are no guarantees. Tik Tok monitors trending videos and hashtags on its platform, but there may still be content that violates community guidelines by promoting inappropriate or self-harm behavior.
How do I monitor my teen on Tik Tok?
Other than Restricted Mode, there’s no way to filter out content on TikTok, so parents are encouraged to share an account with kids under the age of 13. This will let you keep an eye on what your kid is viewing and posting. Parents of older kids who are more resistant to monitoring can ask about their favorite video creators and get to know their videos (with or without your kid). Also, take the time to regularly look at the most popular songs, videos, and challenges.