The Brief: TikTok / Musical.ly is a video-sharing app with over 500 million active users. Users share video clips of lip-syncing, performing vocal covers, dancing, and even performing quick jokes. As with any live streaming site, it has its issues.
TikTok is a video sharing social media app, designed to allow users to share up to fifteen second video clips. Content ranges from lip-syncing to popular songs, performing your own vocal covers, dancing, and even performing quick jokes. There’s an intended use to this app, and a dark side that you can’t afford to not investigate.
With a combined 500 million active monthly users as of June 2018, there’s a large active base of teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17. This app has only recently come into the mainstream United States marketplace, bringing with it an entirely new interface from the previous app that TikTok purchased, Musical.ly.
TikTok (known as Douyin in China) was founded in September of 2016, giving it a short history, even for an app. TikTok also allows you to solely “lurk,” or simply view content that other users have made. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, there is no need to have a public profile where others can find in-depth information on you or your family members.
TikTok Was Formerly Known as Musical.ly
In August of 2018, the brand Musical.ly was absorbed into their new parent company, which initially purchased them back in November of 2017. Musical.ly users awoke to find their beloved app had been replaced, and their accounts migrated.
While TikTok users notice similarities in the previous setup, it’s a bit different and has an entirely different community. With this rapidly expanding global audience, it has former Musical.ly members in a bit of a haze, and has some parents concerned about the app’s safety.
- Video Creation: Users create, edit and promote videos of them performing lip-syncing or singing. From here, they can post them, where any user on the TikTop app has the ability to view said video.
- Effects: There are filters, similar to Snapchat, that allow you to add special effects to your videos to enhance them. These filters don’t add any added risk to teens using the app.
- Messaging: Chat messaging system for text message-style conversing with other users. Depending on your privacy settings, your profile will be public, allowing unsolicited messages that you may ignore or decline.
- Integration: While these features are developing, users can link their Facebook or Twitter profile to post links to their video. This promotes others to check out the app.
Is TikTok Safe for Kids to Use? Yes and No
Musical.ly’s past has collided with TikTok, and it’s not all innocent. While users have the option to explore, there are no ratings or filters on what another user is live-streaming. The darker side of Muscal.ly can’t be overlooked, especially with its initial 100 million monthly users now migrating to TikTok.
Men have live-streamed themselves completely naked, while other users have been cyberbullied on a repeated basis. Without a rating system, there’s a wide open spot for adults looking to interact with and view children to run rampant. Furthermore, whatever they live-stream to the public is fair game. Since the app allows users to explore at their will, there’s nothing stopping these adults from live-streaming in their birthday suit to any age range. As far as they’re concerned, it’s not their fault if a child sees it, and with that, any argument won’t hold merit.
With the Right Use, It Has Its Benefits
TikTok is regarded as a fairly safe app for young users. Risks are minimal, so long as parents are able to speak to their child about basic online safety. Users traditionally use the front-facing camera on their smartphone to live stream or record themselves, giving little to no detail about their surroundings. The only other safety concern is in the messaging system, which can be privatized with specific settings.
You can set your profile to public or private, preventing others from contacting you unless you’ve contacted them yourself. Since this app has a wide user age range, basic internet safety rules apply, such as not communicating with someone you don’t know.
Other things to keep in mind are the explicit ratings on certain songs. Currently, there is no filter to prevent songs with strong language, racial slurs or sexual themes from being shared openly with the public. Based on history, this isn’t something that’s likely to change in the near future. With everything on the internet, there’s a dark side. Outside of these issues, most users enjoy a fairly innocent experience.
I’m a Parent: Should I Make a TikTok Account?
While most users range from 13 to 17, others are generally of 30 years of age or younger. Parents are fully welcome to download and test this app, ensuring all safety protocol for their child to use. This app is fairly basic and straightforward, and should only take a few moments to fully scan through and test all the features.
If you want to have a bit of fun with it, you can always lip-sync to one of your child’s favorite songs, and send them the link to it through the chat messaging system. This way, you’ll be able to poke a bit of fun, while dually checking how seriously they take internet safety and unsolicited messages.