A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that TikTok is a social network for sharing user-generated music videos. It used to be called musical.ly. Users can create and upload videos, remix others' work, or browse content created by other users and by famous recording artists. However, as of 2019, in response to an FTC settlement, there's a separate section of the app for users under 13. That experience only lets users view curated videos: They can't comment, search, or post their own videos, and their data isn't collected. Because access to that area only requires the user to enter a birth date, the app is still recommended for older teens. Because the app employs popular music, expect swearing and sexual content in the songs. Though videos viewed during the review process contained only some tight and revealing clothing, some families have encountered sexually suggestive or even explicit material.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's it about?
TIKTOK is a lively social network built around creating, sharing, and searching for user-created music videos. Users can upload videos of themselves singing, lip-synching, dancing, or performing some kind of stunt. Ongoing challenges spur users to create content related to a particular theme, and users can integrate their own videos with another user's with the Duet feature. Simple stickers, filters, and augmented reality (AR) animations can be added to videos, and users can livestream themselves and interact directly with online audiences via chat. Users can set their videos to private or share them publicly. If shared publicly, videos can be viewed, commented upon, or remixed by other users. Creators can determine exactly which comments are published, if they choose. An in-app store lets users purchase in-app currency that can be used to buy digital "gift" icons for their favorite livestreamers. If users are under 13, they can enter their birth date to access a separate area that only allows them to watch curated videos and not post, comment, or search.
Is it any good?
The idea behind this musical social network is great, but the features are sometimes buggy, and teens should adjust the privacy settings before using. With cool features for searching for content, sharing your own videos, and remixing work from other users, there's terrific potential for TikTok to be a creative social space. That being said, because it's all about popular music, lyrics often contain swearing and sexual references, and many parents have reported finding explicit sexual content and content referencing self-harm. The password-protected Digital Well-Being setting limits kids to two hours with the app per day, and Restricted Mode helps (but doesn't totally prevent) kids from finding inappropriate content. The pairing feature gives parents even more control, which is rare when it comes to social media apps. That said, Privacy and Safety settings are still imperfect, because users still can't delete accounts themselves, and if accounts aren't made Private from the start, kids could retain unwanted followers. Additionally, while the section of the app for users under 13 restricts the experience to filter out mature content and comments -- and even prevents them from posting videos themselves -- it only requires entering a birth date, which is easy to circumvent. These restrictions may also take most of the fun out of the app for some kids. Still, for kids 16 and up who can better handle the mature content (and don't mind the iffy interface that makes it hard to see your own videos at times), it can be a fun diversion -- provided fame doesn't become an obsession.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about family rules for privacy and social networks. Talk about when it's OK to share information and what kind of information should be kept private. What are your rules around your kid using Tik Tok? Can your kid share videos publicly or only with friends?
Before downloading, discuss your family's rules around profanity and sexual references in music. What are your teens allowed to listen to? What kinds of videos can they post?
Talk about songs that might be fun to lip-synch to and how you can get creative with that 15-second time limit for videos. Think about what kinds of movements or dance might work well within that time frame.
- Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
- Price: Free
- Pricing structure: Free
- Release date: January 14, 2016
- Category: Social Networking
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Size: 187.70 MB
- Publisher: BYTEMOD PTE.Ltd
- Version: 8.0.1
- Minimum software requirements: Requires iOS 9.0 or later; Android 4.1 and up
- Last updated: March 10, 2021
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.