TikTok - Real Short Videos

App review by
Patricia Monticello Kievlan, Common Sense Media
TikTok - Real Short Videos App Poster Image
Sing, lip-synch, and share videos; watch for iffy content.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 287 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 583 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Created for entertainment and not recommended for learning.

Ease of Play

Interface can be unreliable; it's often difficult to see your own videos. 
 

Violence

Unless a song's content has especially abusive language, there's unlikely to be any violence depicted.

Sex

Some sexy stuff, including users in revealing clothing, dancing suggestively, or singing provocative lyrics. Comments often contain sexual references or innuendo. New Restricted Mode lets parents filter out sexually suggestive content. 

Language

Between lip-synched popular songs and original compositions, lots of variety. Some songs are G-rated, but there's also music with mature themes and strong language such as "bitch," "p---y," "motherf----r."

Consumerism

Lots of the content is user-generated, but some comes directly from professional artists and performers. Kids want to buy those songs online once they've heard them. Users can purchase up to $100 worth of in-app currency. Branded content, ads, hashtag challenges, special offers. TikTok Rewards lets teens invite friends to use the app in exchange for points, which they can redeem for coupons for brands like Target, CVS, Sephora. In-app links lead kids to real shopping, including links in other users' profiles.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Depends on the song, but definitely verbal references to alcohol, marijuana. Despite Restricted Mode filter, clips can still be found containing teens smoking, drinking, and, occasionally, doing drugs. 

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.

The Digital Well-Being settings allow parents to set two-hour screen-time limits with the app (locked with a password), and a new Restricted Mode (also password-protected) can help filter out inappropriate content. As of 2020, there's a Family Safety Mode feature that lets parents link their own account to their kid's to control time limits and Restricted Mode, and it lets parents disable direct messages as well. Parents can also control who can leave comments, turn off search, and disallow users from seeing which videos their kid has liked. If a kid unpairs the account, the parent gets an alert. Note that kids can get around these controls by setting up a new account. Settings allow users to share their videos with friends or the general public, but setting accounts to Private does nothing to eliminate previously obtained followers. For kids 13-15, the privacy default setting is private, only friends can comment on videos, and other users can't us the Duet or Stitch features with their videos. Also, only users 16 and older can livestream and use direct messaging. Creators can control which comments go live on their videos, and commenters will see a pop-up box to rethink a comment that may be unkind, determined by keywords. Users 18 and older can buy, send, and receive virtual gifts. Parents should note that the app has its own celebrities, and kids may use it in hopes of becoming famous. Finally, users cannot delete accounts themselves and must request a delete code from the developers after submitting their phone number. Read the developer's privacy policy for details on how your (or your kid's) information is collected, used, and shared and any choices you may have in the matter, and note that privacy policies and terms of service frequently change. Under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), you have the right to protect your personal information. Make a Do Not Sell request to TikTok.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10 and 12-year-old Written byKitsmom February 22, 2016

Caution! Very fun but not for Tweens!

This app is so easy to use and allows the creative juices to really flow. It seemed potentially much more desirable than having the kids stare at the TV for the... Continue reading
Adult Written byJen P. August 24, 2016

Great app!

Personally I think this is a great fun easy to use app for kids and teens. My 12 year old daughter has it and loves. Yes there are many songs with inappropriate... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old May 16, 2016

Kid, disappointed, scared, annoyed.

This app is just disappointing, scary, and makes you feel weird. I may be against other kids but I think that you should STAY AWAY. It won't make you feel... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byBuffy Rules April 6, 2016

Review #23 - What? Your 16+ rating has gotta be a joke. My 12 yo sister uses it fine.

Really, no offense to Common Sense Media, but it's like Facebook, just be careful. These guys overrate some games and music on the age. Like Halo: The Mast... Continue reading

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. 

App details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love music

Themes & Topics

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