Rising from the ashes of Musical.ly the short video social network TikTok is an unstoppable machine with over 1 billion users in 150 countries. In terms of user engagement TikTok is incredible, Jennifer Lopez has 45 million followers on Twitter and a video posted there got "just" 2 million views, the same video on TikTok to her mere 5 million followers garnered 71 million views! The magical AI powered algorithms of TikTok combined with the incredibly addictive nature of the app itself makes TikTok a force to be reckoned with that is popular with everyone regardless of age, gender, or orientation - there is a corner of TikTok for everyone. But the question all parents are asking themselves, is TikTok safe?

Inappropriate content? Not really.

As a rule for those who simple consume content from TikTok, it's pretty safe. TikTok are quite quick to remove inappropriate content and if anything are over cautious at removing things, many a creator complains about their video being taken down or being "shadow banned" for some unknown violation.

As with any social network there is always a danger that some inappropriate content will be found by mistake when scrolling through, but considering how powerful the algorithms are that match users to content, it's rare to come upon something that you wouldn't want to see. Boring perhaps, but inappropriate? Unlikely.

Generally speaking TikTok is about as safe as most social networks, and in my experience probably better than the likes of Instagram and Snapchat, the latter especially being full of predators and other unsavoury characters. TikTok doesn't seem to suffer the same problem, perhaps because the large majority of users are consuming not sharing.

Posting your own videos is where the risk lies, but still low.

Creating your own TikTok's is where the danger potentially lies, particularly for younger users. Naturally a social network wants you to post fresh content, and TikTok is absolutely jam packed with viral dances that people love to get in on the action with and hope to become a viral sensation. However by posting your videos you open yourself up to all sorts of dangers.

First and foremost, there is no escaping the most classic of all online threats, cyber bullying and trolls. You, or your darling children, may think they are amazing dancers or singers but that doesn't necessarily mean they are, and you can be certain that someone somewhere is going to point that out in the comments. The comments can be hurtful though and if they are sustained then it could really knock someones self esteem, so watch out, there are trolls under that TikTok bridge.

Expanding on that first point, an otherwise shy person in the real world might come out their shell and love dancing around on TikTok, they may well even be really good and very popular. But what if that person's TikTok profile gets discovered and shared all around school? Something to keep in mind. Some younge users have seemingly come up with a solution to this and only post on TikTok wearing Guy Fawkes masks to maintain anonymity, clever.

Secondly, over sharing. It can be very tempting to think all your online fans are your friends, but that doesn't mean they need to know everything about you. For those posting content it's important to remember that TikTok has incredible habit of surfacing the most obscure posts to millions of users and suddenly making them a viral hit. Great news for users hoping to be the next big thing, but not great if you're sharing perhaps a little too much about yourself. For young users especially this is a real danger.

Screen time, a quick scroll on TikTok and soon it's 4am

The biggest danger of all in my humble opinion is screen time. TikTok has this incredible ability to take up entire days entirely by accident. It is not uncommon to open the app for a quick scroll and find yourself still scrolling 4 hours later, this is a danger that cannot be understated, it is addictive. TikTok has hit the sweet spot in terms of video length, they are only ever short videos at 3 minutes long max, so you feel you can hop in and just watch one or two, but after watching one your brain says, watch another they're only short. The problem is that only watching another, and another, and another, and another short video quickly adds up to a low of short videos which consumes a lot of time.

TikTok to their credit do have health settings to allow you to limit and password the app, and even connect childrens accounts to parents TikTok accounts to enable restrictions. Go to Settings then Digital Well-being to enable and configure. But whilst those controls probably help parents of children, it isn't protecting the parents so you need some serious self control.

Summary, is it safe? Yes, mostly.

In summary, TikTok is a fairly safe social media platform but as with any social media platform some safety measures can be taken.

  • Enable screen time controls to limit the amount of time you spend on the app, this is the biggest risk to your overall well being.
  • If you're a parent of a child using the app, enable the digital well being family features to manage the restrictions on your child's TikTok account.
  • When posting to the app, keep in mind anyone might see it, live your best life and have fun, but people are cruel. You could turn off comments on your videos if you don't want to have to deal with the trolls and haters.
  • If your children are wanting to post videos, have a frank talk with them about the dangers and encourage them to protect their privacy, or even consider posting using an ever popular Guy Fawkes mask or pseudonym.
  • As with any social network you can have a private profile, don't want the world to see your dancing and singing? Go private.

Final closing remarks, epsecially for parents. Be honest and open with your children, they are going to want to use the app so it's better to be open about the risks and encourge their creativity whilst ensuring they feel able to come to you if they see something they don't like. If you tell them they can't use it, you can be certain they will use it anyway but now they can't come to you for help without fearing they'll get in trouble. Accept that they're going to use it and foster an attitude of trust and openness.