Gone are the days when TikTok was nothing more than a way to pass the time with a silly dance routine during lockdown. Following astronomical growth which has seen users double in just under two years, a billion people worldwide now actively use the platform, with a quarter of those aged between 10 and 19.
Now, it has been revealed that the UK Government has followed in the footsteps of the US, Canada and the EU by banning the use of the app on Government phones, a story that is hot on the heels of research by US based Internet 2.0 which found that the apps code contains twice as many personal information trackers as the industry average
Analysis showed that TikTok not only collects significantly more personal data than other leading social platforms but its source code software that can gain access to information about your wi-fi network, Sim card, type of phone and subscription information prompting warnings from experts.
Manny Athwal, Founder and CEO of School of Coding, the UK’s largest computer science educator said: “With such a high proportion of young people using the app and with research showing that so much of their personal data is accessible, it’s more important than ever for parents to be vigilant about their children’s social media use.
“As a parent myself, I appreciate that it simply isn’t viable to prevent your child or teenager using social media entirely. Especially with an app like TikTok which has transitioned far beyond a simple video platform and has overtaken search engines like Google as the first port of call for young people looking for information, products or even news.”
But when it comes to keeping kids safe on TikTok there are some steps you can take, Manny says, “even if you consider yourself to be a tech savvy parent, there’s a lot we simply don’t know about some of the apps that our children access but when it comes to online safety, knowledge really is power.
“There are a couple of things you can do to make sure you’re clued up - the first, being familiarising yourself with TikTok and how it works. If you know how it operates it's much easier to have an open dialogue with your children to help them to understand the potential dangers and what to look out for. Not only will this equip them with the tools to keep themselves safe but will make them much more likely to approach you if they encounter something that doesn’t seem quite right.
“Secondly, it’s important to remember that social media is a two-way street - without privacy settings, if your child has access to someone's content, essentially that account has access to your child. Where we often go wrong as parents is not putting the appropriate settings and restrictions in place in the app itself to control what our children are seeing. Ensuring your child's account is set to private for example, switching off direct messaging and making sure Restricted Mode is switched on will help to control what content your child can see.”
Keeping an eye on screen time is also vital to make sure your children are safe, Manny adds, “Pulling our children's attention away from their screens is easier said than done but it’s simple - the less screen time they are given, the less time they can be on apps like TikTok. Equally, using things like shared accounts - i.e accounts that you control but your children can access is a good way to control screen time as well as monitoring exactly what content they can consume. Even the likes of celebrities like Kim Kardashian, who has spoken publicly about how she minimises her children’s use of TikTok by using a shared account controlled by her, are facing the same struggles but it’s all about educating yourself so that you can educate your child.”
For more information on School of Coding, visit www.schoolofcodinguk.com.