A new app has been sweeping the social media landscape, and is even more popular in the App Store than Snapchat and Facebook. TikTok (formerly Musical.ly) is a video sharing platform that allows users to create, share, and react to short videos that play over a soundtrack. It’s essentially a hub of home music videos, and when used in the right spirit, TikTok can be fun for everyone.
But not everyone uses the app how it was intended, and just like other social media platforms, TikTok is fast becoming a hotbed of abuses ranging from cyberbullying to sexploitation that parents should monitor with Bark. Here we dive into the app’s development and unpack what you need to know as a parent.
What is TikTok?
2014 saw the introduction of an app called Musical.ly, which became a popular way for teens to share videos of themselves lip-syncing to their favorite songs. Three years later it was acquired by the Beijing-based ByteDance, who merged it with another app it owns —TikTok — consolidating their audiences to edge out competitors. TikTok has now become a social force to be reckoned with, equipped with all-new features and spreading like a virus.
Each video lasts up to 15 seconds, and users can add a variety filters and effects to enhance them. They also have the ability to send videos privately among friends or with the general public. Anyone can see public videos — even if they don’t have an account — and the most popular videos are compiled into a feed that serves as a highlight reel for the entire global platform. Needless to say, TikTok can lead to some unsettling online activity.
The Dangers of TikTok
The public nature of the platform means that users can be contacted by anyone in the world. Although users can block or report others for inappropriate messages, TikTok has no broader parental controls. Even if your own account is set to private, you may still be exposed to sexual or violent content posted to the public feed.
Cyberbullying is also a major issue. People can create multiple accounts, using aliases to target others they don’t like. Trolling is also popular on TikTok, especially through the “Reactions” feature, which allows users to respond to videos with videos of their own. At its core, TikTok encourages expression through music, but sometimes people express things that are highly personal or sensitive. Kids who admit to depression are often met with dismissive and sarcastic reactions — some are even publically encouraged to commit suicide.
TikTok also has a “Duets” feature, which has been exploited by sexual predators who use the platform to groom underage users. One user in particular — TheBudday — is notorious for performing suggestive duets with underage girls, sending them inappropriate reaction videos, and even attempting to meet up in real life.
On its merits, TikTok is a great way for teens to keep in touch online. But that doesn’t mean the app will always be a safe place to socialize. Bark monitors online activities on TikTok and more than 24 other social media platforms, as well as texts, chat, email, and YouTube. Sign up today to keep your kids safer online!