As we shelter in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, educators, students and families are turning to internet platforms to educate, stay entertained, informed and connected. Social media apps are seeing usage explode, especially among teens, as people post educational, creative and engaging videos they are producing from their homes.
There are concerns for the privacy and protection of younger users on social media apps. There are too many bad actors trying to take advantage of children through digital interactions.
One popular app, TikTok, recently launched a number of enhancements to safety policies, controls, and educational resources that will help keep kids safe. The National PTA -- along with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Family Online Safety Institute and ConnectSafely -- are partnering with TikTok to help inform parents of the new parental controls, like its Family Pairing feature, which gives parents the ability to guide their child's online experience while also educating them about online safety and digital citizenship.
In addition to Family Pairing, TikTok also offers educational safety videos and parental guides, like its Top Ten Tips for Parents. The app also features a code of conduct outlined in its Community Guidelines to help educators, parents and kids understand what responsible community behavior looks like, how to identify and report content that may be in violation, and what it means to be positive digital community members.
We wanted to share this information to help protect the welfare of children and youth in the home, school and community. Taking advantage of this opportunity to help keep kids safe at home, especially now when they are spending so much time on social media apps.
Guides to TikTok
National PTA has partnered with TikTok itself to create TikTok Tips for Parents, and Common Sense Media has created the Parents’ Ultimate Guide to TikTok (also available in Spanish).
TikTok Tips for Parents
National PTA partnered with TikTok to create this guide for parents. At its most simple level, TikTok is a platform for creating short videos, much like the now-defunct Vine. The guide covers:
- What is TikTok?
- TikTok Terms
- How to manage connections, including private vs. public accounts and blocking users
- How content can be restricted
- A digital well-being checklist
The TikTok terms section provides a useful guide for parents about the unique language of TikTok (e.g., Duets) and the how-to sections clearly walk parents through how to protect their child’s account, who they can connect with, and what they can see on the platform.
Parents’ Ultimate Guide to TikTok
Much like the National PTA guide, the Common Sense Media guide covers the basics of the platform and answers questions parents might have about TikTok. There is a little overlap with the National PTA guide, but it also covers questions not included in the other guide. Questions addressed in the Common Sense Media guide are:
- What is TikTok?
- How safe is TikTok?
- How does TikTok work?
- Is TikTok appropriate for kids?
- What age is TikTok recommended for?
- How can you make your TikTok account private?
- How do I delete a TikTok video?
- How can I delete a TikTok account?
- How can I use TikTok with my kids?
- How do you do a duet on TikTok?
- What are TikTok Challenges?
- Does TikTok have parental controls?
- How can I monitor my kid’s activity on TikTok?
- What if my kid wants to get famous on TikTok?
Both guides can help educators and parents understand TikTok and how to keep their child safe on the platform. Educators and parents may also want to include National PTA’s The Smart Talk as part of their conversation about TikTok as a way of developing family rules for online behavior and technology use tailored to their family’s values and their child’s needs.
For more resources about online safety, check out all of the Ultimate Guides at Common Sense Media.