In a matter of just a few years, TikTok has become one of the fastest-growing and most popular mobile apps in the world. However, its popularity has also made it a target of pedophiles, who often use the platform to get in touch with its younger users.
“TikTok is a social media app that’s available to anyone over the age of 13. The whole premise of TikTok is short videos, something akin to Snapchat. Except that these videos stick around, and are shareable too, like Facebook posts. The minimum age of 13 is incredibly low, given that this app is video dependent and that’s one thing that pedophiles are known to love… video,” according to Healthy Holistic Living.
According to the UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, almost 1 in 20 kids who live stream on TikTok have been requested to strip by strangers. Since streaming online only gives the person seconds to respond, a skilled manipulator can easily make young kids do sexual acts that they wouldn’t have done under normal circumstances. In Stockport, Greater Manchester, one trend that became popular in TikTok is the #takeitoff “challenge” in which young girls were encouraged to remove their clothes. After school administrators came to know of it, they alerted the parents.
Since young girls are just starting to experience sexual feelings, it leaves them vulnerable to flattery and deceit, especially if the girl has only a few friends. Pedophiles can contact such girls on TikTok and act as the trusted friend to whom they can talk to. After a relationship is established and the pedophile is sure that the girl trusts him completely, he or she starts making sexual suggestions. Since the girl trusts them, she ends up sending sexual videos on private chat. In some cases, the pedophile might attempt to make physical contact with the girl.
Gran Michaela Clark is a 50-year-old woman who lives with her granddaughter Grace in Derbyshire. Grace was just 10 years old when she was using TikTok and ended up being sexually groomed. “My granddaughter had been on the site for three days and then my daughter Jemma got a visit from the police asking if Grace was alright. The police had gone round because a guy from Canada, a pedophile hunter, had been watching this group and he’d said that Grace had been groomed on TikTok. She’d been entering private chats with someone who’d claimed to have known her. He threatened to come to her house and take her if she didn’t do certain things,” she said to The Sun.
As a parent, it is your duty to ensure that your kids are protected from unwanted people and messages online. The first thing to do is to change the “Private Account” setting on your child’s TikTok account. This will block strangers from following, liking, and viewing the kid’s videos. It is also a good idea to block the download of videos. “There’s a default setting which lets anyone download videos posted on public profiles… Fortunately, TikTok lets you stop that through its privacy settings. Navigate to Privacy & Safety and disable Allow Download,” according to Guiding Tech.
You should limit the amount of time your kid spends on TikTok. This will prevent them from getting too addicted to the app. To do so, go to Settings > Digital Wellbeing > Screen Time Management. You can set a time limit from here. Once your kid uses TikTok for the prescribed time limit, say 45 minutes, the app will automatically lock them out. Remember to choose a passcode while setting up this feature so that your kid is unable to make any changes.