TikTok: you will have heard of it. There are those who speak well, others badly. Who has endless fun, who demonizes him. Those who consider it a social network for kids, some of hookers, some of creativity and fun.
But what is TikTok really? How does it work? From what age can it be used? What are the risks for minors? What can parents do to educate their children in technology and not demonize the medium, risking to alienate them more and more?
To clarify this world the National Consumers Union (Unc) together with the psychologist Maura Manca wrote a guide to the conscious use of TikTok. The aim is to help parents use the app safely. It is called "Together with the discovery of TikTok - Guide to the safe use of the most creative app of the moment" and was presented today by the social network, in conjunction with the announcement, on a global scale, of new parental control tools made available to parents to regulate the presence of minors on the social network.
Read also: Educating children about technology, 4 practical tips for parents
In this article
- What is TikTok
- How to make TikTok safe for little kids
- Guide for parents and teenagers to use TikTok
What is TikTokTik tok is a very young app, it was born only two years ago, but it immediately positioned itself in a short time as an app for creation and sharing of short videos from mobile. It currently has 100.000 active users in Europe. TikTok is none other than the old Musical.ly, born in 2022 and purchased in 2022 for just under a billion dollars by the Chinese ByteDance, which launched it with the new name in August 2022. TikTok is not just music and ballet, but has become, above all, a stage since the beginning of the year global where you can express yourself, give vent to your creativity, learn something new or simply spend time in joy.
How does TikTok work and when can it be used?For starters, TikTok it is not a kid app. It is intended for an audience of 13+ and therefore means that kids thirteen and up can download it. But just because they can download it doesn't mean they have to be left alone with the phone in hand. The role of the parent remains fundamental in the first steps towards a healthy and aware digital education.
What can you do with this app? And how can it be used by young people and adults in an educational way?TikTok is a constantly evolving reality. TikTok is:
- It is a platform for the sharing and enjoyment of short content up to 60 seconds.
- On TikTok you can participate, interact and co-create: a peculiarity and strength of the app.
- It is a place for creative expression, thanks to the different means available: effects, sounds, music, etc.
- On TikTok the centrality of content is fundamental. It is not only a social network, but also a platform that provides content.
- Authenticity on TikTok is always rewarded.
- There is a wide range of content for all tastes: if at the beginning it was famous for ballets, now comic sketches are published, but there is also an educational and didactic vein, with the hashtag #learn withTikTok.
- It is not a platform only for young people: adults and ... grandparents are also present. Over 67% of the members are over 24 years old.
How to make TikTok safe for little kids?On TikTok there are various tools to ensure the safety of minors. Specific measures are envisaged such as:
- Age-limited features
- The family connection, a kind of parental control
- Children under 13 cannot register.
- Children under 16 cannot access the direct messaging feature and cannot host a live stream.
- Children under the age of 18 cannot send or receive virtual gifts.
The family connectionIt is a tool that allows you to connect the parents' account to that of their minor child via a qr code. It is a feature born last February and which was later implemented and enriched. Among the settings that the parent can define:
- Define time limits.
- Restrict or disable direct messages (for those over 16).
- Restrict viewing of content.
- Make the account private or public.
- Disable the search field.
- Decide who can comment on your child's videos.
- Decide if other people can have access to the videos your child likes.
Attention to privacy
- Up to 18 years, setting up a private account is recommended.
- Profile photo, cover image and bio are public, so they must be chosen carefully.
- Advise your child not to disclose personal information such as age, home address, telephone number or places they frequent
The importance of digital education for childrenApplications and mobile phones are now part of our lives and for this reason UNI, the National Consumers Union, advises not to demonize them, but to treat them with awareness. "This is precisely the real strength of consumers in modern times, the knowledge of phenomena accompanied by a measured and prudent use of digital". This is why children must be accompanied and educated not only in the real world, but also in the digital world, to avoid it being used in the wrong way but also to "make the most of the growth opportunities favored by the moments we dedicate to free time".
How to educate adolescents to digital?Massimiliano Dona, president of the National Consumers Union, stressed today at a press conference the importance of playing with your children and of "constantly dialoguing with the youngest consumers, interacting with them and giving importance to the online life of young people" . We must not be estranged from technology, but we must live it together. What harms is the abuse, not the correct use. Because, as Dr. Maura Manca, clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and president of the Onluns National Adolescence Observatory, argues, for younger it is natural to express themselves and relate to each other through technology. They have been immersed in it since they were born and they "need someone to accompany them and guide them towards a correct use in order to know and exploit their resources, potential and guarantee well-being digital, understood as being comfortable within a platform. Minors are not able to self-regulate independently. "And at this point the adult enters the role. It is important set time limits and agree with your child on a way to use them to prevent them from developing a dependency. An addiction not only linked to the time spent online, but also to its repercussions in family, social and sleep life. The brain remains active and connected even when offline. Using a parental control or family connection means creating a bridge between teenagers and parents: they are not ways to invade privacy, but to monitor the child. "THE limits they are not blocks, but they define a space for action and movement. We cannot give such a broad tool to those who are not yet structurally capable of self-regulation and of critically assessing what happens to them. Because of this children from an early age should be digitally educated. You have to follow your children online, teach and follow them. "
How can a parent act as a filter?A parent must:
- Use and all the tools made available by the platform, which allow him to monitor his child's activities without depriving him of his space and freedom of action. Restrictions are not limitations, but protection.
- Helping to select the contents and methods of interaction.
- Teaching critical thinking online to identify any blunders and critical issues and be less conditioned, because in the midst of all the stimuli and positive information there are many links and exploited, misleading and conditioning news.
The guide for parents and teenagers to use TikTok
The guide to the safe use of TikTok is available on the UNC website. It is a decalogue which, as Massimiliano Dona suggests, "is a page to be printed and hung on the refrigerator to always have it at hand", since it helps in 10 steps to improve the shared experience on TikTok.
1. EXPLORE TIKTOK TOGETHER
Explore the application, watch and comment together the videos that appear in the "For You" section. Search for the latest trends and explore effects and filters. Define together the contents that can be published.
2. SET YOUR ACCOUNT AS PRIVATE
Privacy is a key aspect: set up your private account. Profile photo, cover image and bio are public, choose them carefully and make sure your child does not reveal personal information such as age, home address, telephone number or places they frequent.
3. ACTIVATE THE FAMILY CONNECTION
Thanks to this feature, you can link your TikTok account to that of your teenage child and change some settings that make it more secure: make the account private, block direct messages, define time limits, restrict viewing of content and disable the search function. You can activate it in the "Settings and privacy" section of the app.
4. TOGETHER CHOOSE WHICH INTERACTIONS TO ALLOW OTHER USERS
You can decide together with your child which actions to allow or restrict other users, for example if they can comment on a video or have a duet with him. Together with your child, choose which actions to allow or limit to define a protected space for movement.
In the "Privacy" section you can define your custom options.
5. SHOW YOUR CHILD HOW TO REPORT INAPPROPRIATE CONTENT OR BLOCK A USER
On TikTok it is important that everyone can feel free to express themselves in a positive, safe and inclusive environment. You can report inappropriate content, comments or accounts directly in-app or block unwanted users. Check out the tools available
in the "Security Center".
6. TALK TOGETHER ABOUT THE CONTENT YOUR CHILD CREATES AND SPREADS ON TIKTOK
Responsible, prudent and correct behavior also on TikTok, as in the offline world, must be the basis for the creation and dissemination of each content. Talk about it together and consult the Community Guidelines. The rules are for the protection of
all members of the community.
7. TOGETHER ESTABLISH THE MAXIMUM TIME THAT CAN SPEND EVERY DAY ON THE APP
You can individually choose the daily usage limit of the app, from 40 to 120 minutes, and activate the in-app Time Management function from the "Application Control" in the "Settings and privacy" section to prevent them from not being aware of the flow of time.
8. DISCOVER THE EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS AVAILABLE
In the Safety Center, on the TikTok app and website, you can find several tools to learn more about the safety features and resources available, including the Resources for parents and the Youth Portal. Define spaces and time, even weekly, for content analysis to make them their own.
9. CREATE A VIDEO TOGETHER! DISCOVER YOUR CHILD'S INTERESTS AND SHOW YOUR MOST CREATIVE SIDE
On TikTok you can find challenges and trends to try together, filters, special effects and sounds to make your content unique. A way to discover your child's passions and to have fun together to strengthen the bond of trust, because a bridge must be created between the two generations.
10. LET YOUR CHILD UNDERSTAND THAT HE CAN TALK TO YOU ABOUT HIS "ONLINE WORLD"
Be interested and informed about your child's life online and offline, without devaluing and underestimating his life online. Always maintain direct contact and openness to dialogue, must be aware that you are always there, because "knowing" means arriving first.Read also: TikTok: the VIP families who earn the most
- children education
- children and technology
- 6-14 children years