Why is TikTok so popular, what are the pros and cons of using it, and should your teens be on it?
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Controversy and Concerns About TikTok
Any product that takes off this quickly doesn’t do so without a hitch. So far there has been controversy due to TikTok’s Chinese roots and the rumor that it is being used as a “giant data vacuum” by China, according to Stoll. The company was also accused of censoring political content. Individuals have claimed their accounts were suspended for posting videos related to the Hong Kong protests and Chinese detention camps, according to The Washington Post. U.S. senators are investigating these allegations and TikTok has made official statements regarding the concern, claiming it’s committed to earning the trust of its users and happy to participate in any investigations.
Should your teens TikTok?
Luckily for parents, there are privacy and safety settings, as well as Screen Time Management and Restricted Mode options, according to Sierra Filucci, editorial director of Common Sense Media and mother of a 15-year-old. Parents can set these using a passcode. TikTok also requires users to be at least 13 years old and receive a guardian’s approval if they are younger than 18.
Filucci, however, thinks parents should get to know the app before allowing access. “If parents are more hands-on, monitoring what kids are doing, have checked out the app, and feel comfortable with the content they see, then they can make the determination of whether or not their kid is ready for it,” she says. “I’m comfortable with my 15-year-old using TikTok because we talk about it a lot, I have a lot of visibility, and cursing isn’t a problem for me. It may be for other parents.”
Like with any social media, parents should have a conversation about TikTok and the responsibilities involved with posting on the internet, Stoll suggests. If safety boundaries are set, you familiarize yourself with the app, and you direct the conversation toward opinion rather than judgment, the app can open the door to laughter, bonding with your kids, and even creativity.
“Sometimes [my 15-year-old daughter and I] just lay on the bed and scroll through,” Filucci says. “I think it shows her I’m not dismissive of this thing she loves and that I can laugh along with her to the funny things.”
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