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TikTok: everything you need to know about the video production app

You may have heard of Musical.ly, but what about TikTok? Here’s everything you need to know about the karaoke app.

From musical.ly to TikTok:

  • Until recently Musical.ly was an app based on the sharing of both recorded and live video.
  • On 2 August 2018, Musical.ly merged with Chinese-owned TikTok to create a 'bigger and better video community'.
  • Due to the change, users of Musical.ly woke up on 2 August to find all their details had been transferred over to TikTok.
  • TikTok reached 150 million daily active users in June 2018 and was the world's most downloaded app in the first quarter of 2018, with an estimated 45.8 million downloads.

How it works

  • TikTok works in a very similar way to Musical.ly. It is made up of user generated content and allows users to watch musical clips and shoot their own videos.
  • Users can edit and add special effects to their clips.
  • They can post these to their followers and share them on other social media platforms such as Instagram or Facebook.

Are there privacy settings?

  • The app has recently come under fire for its lack of privacy settings. There has been concern that young children have exposed their identities, posting videos in school uniform, for instance.
  • Prior to July 2018, the app only allowed users two settings when posting: for videos to be completely private – restricted to the creator’s viewing only – or for clips to be entirely open to the public. Given that a major draw of all social media is for user content to be seen by others, most people, including young children, opted for the ‘public’ option. Users were also unable to delete their accounts themselves but had to do so by email request.
  • However, in June 2018 TikTok announced plans to improve privacy settings including account deletion, private messaging access and parental controls. The privacy updates also allow users to set their videos to private so only approved followers can see them, and will protect them from receiving messages from people they are not connected with.

What’s the minimum age restriction?

TikTok is rated 12+ on the App/Play Store, though in other countries it’s 16+. This does not seem to have deterred younger children downloading and using the app. Though, TikTok has insisted that it will terminate underage accounts where necessary, this is an issue it is struggling with, and relies on parents to ensure their child is of an appropriate age and maturity to use the app.

Is there any inappropriate content on TikTok?

On the App Store, there is warning of ‘Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content and Nudity’. That said, pornographic content is extremely rare. Perhaps more concerning than overtly explicit content are trends like the #takeitoff challenge, which featured young girls, removing their shirts. Though concerns are legitimate, most users upload content that is fun and harmless. There has been some suspicion that the app is being used to stalk and court teenage girls, though TikTok has recently made improvements to its privacy policy.

What’s the best way to help children stay safe on TikTok?

The best way to keep your child safe is to be as informed about the app as you can, understand why they enjoy it and what they use it for and maintain a strong line of communication with them.

There are some practical considerations to bear in mind when discussing TikTok with your child:

1) Make sure your child is old enough to use the app.

2) If your child has their account set to ‘public’, be sure they understand what this really means. The ‘private’ setting, allowing your child to only share their content with approved followers may be the safer option. Also, be sure to discuss with your child who they allow to follow them, as if they are accepting requests from people they don’t know, this could expose them to risk. You can make your profile private by clicking on the profile tab in the app, then go to the three-dot menu in the top-right corner and click on 'Privacy and Safety'. Then toggle 'Private account'.

3) It is worth making sure that your child knows how to keep their identity secure. This includes not filming videos in school uniform or any other personalised clothing. They need to be careful not to give out personal information and particularly to be aware of the location they film their videos in, for example, not filming outside the house, revealing a street name or house number.

4) Make sure your child knows how to report inappropriate content and knows to speak to a trusted adult should this happen. In order to report a specific video, click on the 'share' icon in the bottom-left corner of the video, then click report and follow the on-screen instructions.

If you wish to report a specific user, you can do this by accessing their profile and then clicking on the three-dot menu in the top-right corner. An option saying 'Report' should come up and then follow the on-screen instructions.