With 2 billion plus users, TikTok has a staggering user base. The short-form video app has inspired a variety of global phenomena, including dance competitions, sandwich recipes, pranks, parenting advice, and political activity. This influence has probably penetrated your home, and you are not alone.
Naturally, parents may be hesitant to give their children unlimited access to TikTok. The app offers kids a massive collection of inappropriate music, grown-up dance routines, direct access to billions of strangers, a uniquely addictive format, and the false promise that recording videos is a way straight to fame and money.
Christine Elgersma, editor of social media and learning resources at Common Sense Media, notes that TikTok is linked to several major risks. For starters, “darker, more mature material that kids can find quite easily.” Then, it is possible that children are using TikTok for the wrong reasons, such as connecting with strangers or posting content that could lead to negative reactions.
However, not everything is bad. Elgersma says TikTok is filled with creative and cool content. And she thinks helping kids navigate TikTok can be a lot of fun and spark creativity in both parents and kids.
It is crucial to set restrictions that promote safer and more age-appropriate interactions with the app.
Parents can customize their child’s TikTok experience through a parental limits and controls menu available on TikTok. Consider the following TikTok parental controls.
TikTok automatically changes account settings based on a user’s birthday information. It is up to the user to provide a correct birthday, and like other social media platforms, TikTok relies heavily on an honest approach.
TikTok has policies and trained moderators to predict and flag when they suspect a user is underage. No data is collected from users under the age of 13. Users under 13 can view videos but cannot search or comment on them, upload their own videos, or have subscribers. Kids ages 13-15 can create and share movies, but their profiles are private by default, so only their friends can view and comment on movies.
To activate a private account, you must:
- Go to profile (a person’s image in the lower right corner)
- Click on the three dots in the upper right corner to access the settings
- Select Privacy
- Select privacy account
Under the privacy settings, several additional limitation choices are available. To limit who can comment on your child’s videos, click Who can comment on your videos under Privacy, then choose “friends” or “just me” from the drop-down menus. You can also select whether videos are downloadable, allowing people to keep videos on their phone, by selecting “Allow your videos to be downloaded” followed by “On” or “Off”.
Commenting controls allow users to restrict who can comment on their videos, which is helpful for parents concerned about cyberbullying or communicating with strangers. To enable comment controls for your child’s profile, preferences and privacy, choose from “everyone”, “friends” or “no one”. To exclude specific comments, go to Settings, click Privacy, then Comment Filters.
The “filter spam and offensive comments” setting is turned on automatically, but you can filter out specific keywords by selecting “filter keywords” and then typing certain words into “add keywords”.
The messaging settings allow you to receive direct messages from anyone, from anyone or from friends, who are defined as TikTok users who not only follow a user, but follow them back. The direct messaging feature allows users to send TikToks and text, but not images or videos, and only users over 16 can send direct messages.
To restrict direct messages: Go to Profile, Settings, then Privacy. Select “who can send you direct messages”. Select “friends” or “nobody”.
Restricted mode filters out more mature content, although it’s unclear exactly what content is removed or how effectively. While Restricted Mode applies a filter to videos, kids still have access to a huge library of explicit music when creating their own videos. On the plus side, this mode requires changing a password, making it harder for kids to turn it off as soon as you walk away. To enable restricted mode:
- Go to profile
- Click on the three dots in the upper right corner
- Select Digital Wellbeing
- Select restricted mode
- Select Enable restricted mode
If videos appear that seem inappropriate, you can hold down the screen and select “not interested” to tell the algorithm that you don’t want to see similar videos in the future.
Screen time limits
Much like the time limit settings found on an iPhone or iPad, TikTok has its own time limits. Users can limit their child’s daily allowance between 40 minutes and two hours. After spending that much time on the app on a given day, a video will appear prompting them to spend time out of the app. Users must enter a password to ignore the message and continue using the app. To enable screen time limits: Go to Profile, settings, digital wellbeing, screen time management, time limit and choose between 40 and 120 minutes.
Family Pairing allows parents to remotely link their account to their child’s control settings. This way, parents can turn on restricted mode, screen time limits, and turn off direct messages from their own phones. It’s a good option for parents who think their kids are going to mess with their settings because they can’t change them without parental approval. Note that Family Pairing is limited to controlling these settings. It does not allow parents to see what videos children watch, messages or comments they receive or send, or accounts they interact with.
Report a video or a user
If a disturbing video appears on your child’s feed or someone leaves an inappropriate comment, you always have the option to report it to TikTok. Like similar systems in other forms of social media, the effectiveness of this method varies. To report a user:
- Go to their profile
- Select the three dots in the upper right corner
- Select report
- Select why you are reporting them
To report a comment: select the comment, then select report, and follow the instructions to detail why you’re reporting the comment.
Restrict photosensitive videos
For users sensitive to flashing lights, TikTok provides a setting that will block any videos like this that could potentially trigger photosensitive seizures. To restrict photosensitive videos:
- Go to their profile
- Select Settings
- Select Accessibility
- Choose Delete Photosensitive Videos