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TikTok is the most recent social media app to gain popularity among teens. But is it safe?

Like most online platforms, while it can be great for content-sharing, it also carries some risks.

What is TikTok?

It's a free social media app that allows users to watch, create, and share videos that are often accompanied by popular soundtracks.

The app has been operating worldwide for two years and has had 600 million downloads in 2019 alone.

TikTok specialises in user-generated content and is marketed to schoolchildren and students, becoming serious competition for YouTube and Instagram.

Children, especially those under 16, are flocking to the app to share and create short lip-sync videos or to show off their comedic skills and other talents on the platform.

TikTok is really the big social media craze of the moment.

Arthur Goldstuck, Managing director - World Wide Worx

It's a mash-up of all the things kids really love. It's music, video, social sharing, and commenting, and popularity, and dopamine hits to the brain and the promise of celebrity.

Dean McCoubrey, Founder - MySocialLife

Expert advice

Digital experts Dean McCoubrey and Arthur Goldstuck have warned parents that children under the age of 13 are not permitted to use the platform, although many lie about their age when downloading the app.

McCoubrey is the founder of MySocialLife, a digital citizenship programme aimed at schools, parents and corporates.

Goldstuck is the MD of World Wide Worx, an organisation that conducts market research on digital trends, benchmarking and auditing South African websites.

They've both encouraged parents to change the privacy and security settings for their kids using TikTok and other apps.

Below are some tips for parents:

  • Download the app to better understand what it is about

  • Follow your kids on the app to monitor their activity

  • Show an interest in your child's online behaviour

  • Customize the privacy settings with your kids so their accounts aren't public

Parents must follow their kids. If they are under 13, they shouldn't be on TikTok in the first place. That's part of the rules.

Arthur Goldstuck, Managing director - World Wide Worx

McCoubrey says children in grade 4 have admitted to using the app without their parents' knowledge.

He warns parents about strangers who may make attempts to privately message their kids.

It's hitting the sweet spot for these kids.

Dean McCoubrey, Founder - MySocialLife

One of the things we see is that kids are talking to strangers. They leave their privacy settings wide open... It's definitely a cause for concern.

Dean McCoubrey, Founder - MySocialLife

Private messaging is the first stepping stone for you to be talking to somebody which could turn into a meeting at the local shopping centre.

Dean McCoubrey, Founder - MySocialLife

McCoubrey says parents and schools need to give children the tools and guidelines to understand the risks of online platforms.

Listen to the discussion on Today with Kieno Kammies:

This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Are your kids on TikTok? Here's what parents need to know about the latest craze

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