HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Social media experts are warning parents about a popular app that sexual predators could also be utilizing. The app is called TikTok and it’s one of the world’s most downloaded apps.
With TikTok, kids can make short 15-second videos with special effects and filters. They can make videos of themselves dancing, lip-syncing and pulling pranks, then share it with friends. Sounds innocent enough, right? But with 500 million global monthly users, experts say there’s a large community of child predators on this app searching for their next victim, leaving many parents concerned the app has become a “hunting ground” for pedophiles. Social media experts say it’s so popular especially for young people because it gives the user a lot of creative freedom.
The app states it’s rated for children ages 12 and up and describes itself as a way for users to capture "funny and memorable moments to share with the world.” One of the main issues with TikTok is when kids sign up to use the app, the default setting is set to public, which means anything they share can be seen by any other user in the world. Experts say TikTok can not only expose children to inappropriate video and language, but the app can also collect an alarming amount of data from its users, including phone location.
“So if you are concerned about your kid’s safety and use on TikTok, make sure they change their profile to private. But the good thing about TikTok - someone can’t direct message a person unless they’re following each other," said Brent Reser, assistant director for digital media at Coastal Carolina University.
TikTok also has a feature called “Digital Wellbeing” that sets a two-hour time limit on the app and can also block potentially inappropriate content. Social media experts really encourage parents to make sure your child’s account is set to private. Users can only access someone’s information if the other person decides to share it. Therefore, it’s important to tell your child not to share any personal information on their profiles.
“If you’re on TikTok and you’re creating a video in front of your house, an address could be visible, or if you have papers in front of you - names and phone numbers - those become visible as well," said Reser.
Experts say social media can be a good thing when it comes to a child’s growth. But it’s important to know what your child is up to on their devices and they understand social media safety.