Parents trying to police their kids use of TikTok are getting some help from the social media platform.
This week, TikTok introduced new protections for users under the age of 18.
Among the changes: the default privacy setting for all registered users ages 13-15 will be private, so only someone who they approve as a follower can view their videos, and the options for commenting on videos created by teens have also been tightened.
But the changes don't mean parents can stop actively monitoring their kids' accounts, said Julie Ryan Evans, consumer safety editor at SecurityNerd.
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“Kids are smart. There is a way to work around all of these settings. They fib about their age to get around it. Its super easy to do,” she said. “I think the most important thing that these changes do is it opens up a conversation for parents, that needs to be ongoing with their kids, about all social media.”
Ryan Evans said parents should also check out the parental control options on the app, where you can set time limits or filter out content you don’t want your kids to see.
But make sure you check those settings regularly to make sure your kids haven’t changed them, and be aware that they may have more than one account.
“Some [of the accounts] are to get around their parents' rules and regulations,” said Ryan Evans. “If you tell them they can only use the clean lyric station, they may have another one where they don’t use the clean lyrics. And you may have no idea because you’re following them and you think you know what they’re doing but, meanwhile, they can have a whole other account.”
Susan Hamel of Natick, Massachusetts, said she looks over her middle-schooler's account regularly.
“I’m able to pull it up and see who has watched what,” she said. “I go through and I delete a bunch of stuff. Every once in a while he’ll say, ‘Mom, I used to have 175 followers.’ If there is anyone to me who looks suspect, I just take them right off. I don’t care.”
But that doesn't mean she doesn't like it -- she thinks it's hilarious, and she's learned some dances, too, she said.
“I love the silly and the laughing, especially during the pandemic,” said Hamel. “It has been a godsend that he can connect with his friends and have fun -- and then there’s this constant nagging, go check it, who has he been on with. That has been stressful.”
SecurityNerd has compiled a guide to help you take advantage of parental controls on a variety of your kids' devices and apps. You can find it here.