The Internet is a wonderful resource that can help children both learn and play, but it can also be a dangerous place. While there are ways of keeping your child safe online, there are still potential security risks lurking around every corner. It’s never been more important to protect your child from possible Internet threats such as inappropriate content or even cybercriminals. Unfortunately, social media and video apps are high-risk destinations for both, which makes TikTok a potential threat. This leads many parents to ask, “is it safe for my child to use TikTok?”
What is TikTok?
TikTok is an app where users share, create, or remix short clips and videos. It originally began as a lip-syncing app known as “Musical.ly”. Today, it has grown to become one of the most popular applications in the entire world. However, the app is not popular with some groups, including parents and guardians who worry about their child’s safety.
Some of the stunts, challenges, and “experiments” that users encourage others to participate in are not always the safest. Videos and clips of people playing pranks can even mislead children into thinking such things are safe. And while this poses a direct threat to a child’s safety, other aspects of the app can also be risky. These threats include cyberbullying, spam, malware, phishing attacks, and much more.
Your Child’s Privacy on TikTok
Privacy risks on the TikTok app are a serious cause for concern. In 2018, the Musical.ly app, which eventually became TikTok, was bought by a company in China. Thanks to new management and a re-brand, the app became hugely successful. The next year, in 2019, the company that took over Musical.ly came under fire for privacy rights violations. The company, ByteDance, received a fine from The US Federal Trade Commission for collecting private data from users under 13 years of age. TikTok was forced to pay $5.7 million as a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
Since then, the app has made several efforts to protect its user’s data. However, the TikTok app still has the ability to retain biometric data from its users such as voice and faceprints. It also collects other personal information from users, including:
- Your device
- In-app messages
- App search history
- IP address and location
- The videos you watch and how long you watch them
The TikTok application also monitors and tracks certain identifiers that oversee advertiser interaction. It even “infers” identifying factors such as age range, interests, and gender, based on data it obtains. TikTok then gives this information to its advertisers and uses it to tailor each user’s advertising experience.
Is It Safe for My Child to Use TikTok?
Ultimately, your child is at no immediate risk by simply opening up the TikTok application. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t any threats present on TikTok. Much like any other website, especially social media, privacy and safety is always a concern. When you use social media, you are sharing information about yourself that cybercriminals can use against you.
Utilizing social media to gain information about potential victims is just one way that cybercriminals operate. More and more often, these criminals are targeting vulnerable users like children and young adults. They can easily take their personal data without their consent, sell it, or use it for their own purposes. This is just one reason why it’s so important to monitor what information your child shares on apps like TikTok.
Unfortunately, there are many different ways that cybercriminals can create potentially dangerous environments for children on TikTok. Tricking young adults into downloading malware or giving away their parent’s credit card information is common. This type of social engineering can put your child, their devices, and your financial data at serious risk.
One way to ensure your child is safe on TikTok is to monitor their activity and show them how to keep themselves secure. Learning early online safety habits is a great way to encourage safety and prevent serious problems from occurring in the future.
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