You’ve probably heard some bad stuff about TikTok. It’s a video-sharing social media platform seemingly with good intentions, hijacked by users with questionable motives. That means sexual content and privacy concerns.
It’s hugely popular, however, so your children will probably want to use TikTok. How can you make the service more secure?
What Age is TikTok Appropriate for?
Browse TikTok and you might find inappropriate language and suggestive footage, porn stars, and users hurting themselves. This isn’t all the social network is, but you should know about the darker side alongside the positive stories about communities, fun dances, and joyfulness.
TikTok reacted to media attention by adding Family Pairing. After further concerns were raised, they expanded the capabilities of this function too.
So what is Family Pairing on TikTok? It’s a service which lets parents link their own TikTok account to their teen’s, so you can impose restrictions on their activities.
The first thing to note is that it’s marketed for people over the age of 13. Don’t let them use TikTok unless your child is a teenager.
There’s also an affiliate app, TikTok for Younger Users, which severely limits what the user can do. They can’t post their own videos or comments, send messages, or even have their own profile. It lets them view age-appropriate content only. Doesn’t sound too appealing, does it?
How to Activate Family Pairing
Let’s be realistic here: all you have to do to fully use TikTok is lie about your date of birth. To make it safer, use Family Pairing. Obviously, you need to sign up to TikTok yourself for this to work.
You’ll need access to both accounts. Talk to your child so you can use their phone. Tap Me then the ellipsis on both devices. Scroll down to find Family Pairing then select Parent and Teen on the respective phones. Your teen will then scan the QR code that appears on the parent’s screen, giving the latter more control on their account.
7 Things You Can Do Using Family Pairing on TikTok
Now you’re in charge. But what do you need to do to make TikTok safer without taking away any fun and personal freedom your youngster should be enjoying?
Here are seven things you can do once you’ve activated Family Pairing.
1. Make Your Teen’s TikTok Account Private
This should be the first thing you do. Making an account private means that only approved followers can see any videos (“TikToks”) your teen uploads.
TikTok accounts are automatically public, so content can be shared widely. If you have a public account, individual videos can be made private by account holders. But it’s safer to make the whole account private so strangers can’t view videos without approval.
Just go to Security and safety and tick Private account.
Make sure your teen has nothing sensitive on their profile as this can still be seen, even in private.
2. Turn off Allow Others to Find Me
Just underneath Private account, you’ll see Allow others to find me. You should disable this feature.
Users get suggestions for other profiles they should follow, based on TikTok’s algorithm which narrows down the content you’re most interested in. Once you’ve turned Allow others to find me off, your teen’s account won’t appear in those suggestions, so they’re effectively hidden from anyone but their friends.
They can still add contacts using their smartphone’s address book, through their Facebook, follow backs, scanning a QR code, or searching for a specific username.
3. Limit Comments and DMs in TikTok
Most of the things you need to pay attention to can be found in this Security and safety menu so don’t navigate away just yet. Below, you’ll find two handy features which restrict who can contact your teenager.
Make sure Who can post comments and Who can send you messages are set to Friends, rather than Everyone. People shouldn’t be able to interact easily with a private account, but changing the preferences on these makes doubly sure. Alternatively, turn them Off, though that might seem unnecessary and too invasive for your teen’s liking.
Enable Comment filters as well, just in case any questionable messages make it through.
4. Restrict Likes on TikTok Videos
The whole point of TikTok is interacting with videos, i.e. showing which content you like. But others can similarly see what you’re interested in. This could lead to targeted attacks, but it’s also a privacy issue.
You can regain your teen’s privacy by setting Who can view videos I liked to Only Me. This is a minor thing, and probably not something the account user will even notice, but it’s nonetheless a good thing to take control of.
5. Educate About Reporting Content on TikTok
Further down, you’ll also see the Your block list. Because of course, TikTok lets you block users too.
The service has community guidelines that forbid dangerous activities including scams, sextortion, drug usage, violent videos, and more. If it’s widely illegal, it’s banned from TikTok. But these guidelines go further than that by restricting potential hate speech, “hateful ideologies”, and similar things that sit in a gray area.
Nonetheless, it’s important to let your teen know that if they see anything that they think goes against these guidelines or which upsets them, they can report and block users and content.
To report an account, tap on the ellipsis at the top-right; to report a video, tap on the share button. In both instances, you can then Report. To block an account, you need to tap that ellipsis again and select Block.
6. Limit Viewable Content
1) In Settings
Choose Family Pairing
Scan QR barcode
2) Select Digital Wellbeing
Select Restricted Mode
— B Together E-Safety (@Btogether_UK) November 12, 2020
You’ve stopped others from interacting with your teen without consent. Now you need to make sure they don’t view any adult content on TikTok. To do this, enter Restricted Mode.
Go to your teen’s profile and click on the three-dots. Then go on Digital Wellbeing > Restricted Mode > Turn On Restricted Mode.
It’s not fool-proof, so sometimes, dodgy TikTok content will get through the filters. That’s what reporting is for.
You can also create a passcode so you’re the only person who can deactivate Restricted Mode. If your teen finds out you’ve done that, though, they might think you’re going too far, so consider carefully before you take this step.
7. Watch Out for Unpairing on TikTok Family Pairing
Yes, your teen can unpair their account from yours if they get fed up. That’s why you need to keep an eye on your phone: if they decide to do this, you’ll be notified so TikTok can make sure this is a mutual decision.
You have to tread the line. It’s good to protect youngsters, but let them know you trust them by giving them some freedom. Family Pairing also lets you limit screen time, so if you’re worried they’re spending too many hours on the app, you can cut this down to just 40 minutes a day. If you do that, your teenager might get fed up with always needing parental approval.
Can Your Teen Get Around Your TikTok Restrictions?
Aside from unpairing, your child could find another way around these blocks—by setting up another TikTok account! All they need is a second device using a different account, i.e. an alternative email address without Family Pairing activated.
It’s all down to trust and respect, which go both ways. TikTok is massive right now, but its popularity could wane like Vine, Kik, and Bebo, especially if concerns over privacy continue to be highlighted. Chat to your teen about TikTok, establish some ground rules, and tell them they can always come to you about anything that troubles them on social media or otherwise.
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