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A guide for parents to TikTok’s parental controls

TikTok has a menu of limits and parental controls that parents may use to customise their child's experience on the platform.

With 2 billion users and counting, TikTok has a staggering user base. The short-form video application has inspired a variety of global phenomena, including dancing competitions, sandwich recipes, pranks, parenting advice, and political activity. This influence has likely penetrated your home, and you are not alone. 

Understandably, parents may be hesitant to give their children unrestricted access to TikTok. The app provides children with an extensive collection of inappropriate music, adult dance routines, direct access to billions of strangers, a format that is uniquely addictive, and the false promise that recording videos is a straight route to fame and money. 

Christine Elgersma, Senior Editor in Social Media and Learning Resources at Common Sense Media, notes that TikTok is related to several major risks. To begin with, “darker and more mature material that children can find rather easily”. Then, there is the possibility that children will use TikTok for the wrong reasons, such as making contact with strangers or posting content that could result in harmful backlash. 

However, it’s not all bad. Elgersma asserts that TikTok is filled with creative and cool content. And she believes that assisting children in navigating TikTok can be a lot of fun and spark creativity in both parents and children.

Setting restrictions that promote safer, more age-appropriate interactions with the app is crucial. 

Parents can customise their child’s TikTok experience thanks to a menu of limits and parental controls available on TikTok. Consider the following TikTok parental controls.

Age Limits

TikTok automatically modifies account settings based on a user’s birthday information. It is up to the user to provide a correct birthday, and like other social networking platforms, TikTok relies heavily on an honest approach.

TikTok has policies and moderators trained to predict and report when they suspect a user is underage. No data is gathered from users under the age of 13. Users under 13 can see videos but cannot search for or comment on them, upload their own videos, or have followers. Children aged 13 to 15 can make and share movies, but their profiles are private by default, so only their friends can view and comment on films. 

Security Settings

To enable a private account, you must:

  • Go to Profile (the image of a person in the lower right corner)
  • Click the three dots in the top right corner to access the settings
  • Select Privacy
  • Select Privacy Account

Under the Privacy Settings, several additional limitation choices are available. To limit who can comment on your child’s videos, click Who can comment on your videos under Privacy, and then choose either “friends” or “just me” from the drop-down menus. You can also select whether videos are downloadable, allowing people to keep videos on their phone, by selecting “Allow your videos to be downloaded” followed by “On” or “Off”. 

Comment Controls

Comment controls enable users to restrict who can make comments on their videos, which is helpful for parents concerned about cyberbullying or communication with strangers. To enable comment controls for your child’s Profile, Preferences, and Privacy, choose from “everyone”, “friends”, or “no one”. To exclude specific comments, navigate to settings, click Privacy”, and then Comment filters. 

The setting “filter spam and offensive comments” is turned on automatically, but you can filter specific keywords by selecting “filter keywords” and then typing in certain words in “add keywords”. 

Direct Communication

Messaging settings allow you to receive direct messages from anyone, no one, or friends, which are defined as TikTok users who not only follow a user but who they follow back. The direct messaging function allows users to send TikToks and text, but not images or video, and only users over 16 can send direct messages.

To restrict direct messages: go to Profile, Settings, and then Privacy. Select “who can send you direct messages”. Select either “friends” or “no one”.

Restricted Mode

Restricted mode filters out more mature content, though it’s unclear precisely what content is removed or how effectively. While restricted mode applies a filter to videos, children still have access to a vast library of explicit music when making their own videos. On the plus side, this mode requires a passcode to be changed, making it harder for kids to turn it off as soon as you walk away. To turn on restricted mode:

  • Go to Profile
  • Click the three dots in the upper right corner
  • Select Digital Wellbeing
  • Select Restricted Mode
  • Select Turn Restricted Mode on

If videos do come up that feel inappropriate, you can hold down on the screen and select “not interested” to tell the algorithm that you don’t want to see similar videos in the future. 

Screen Time Limits

Much like the time limit settings found on an iPhone or iPad, TikTok has its own time limits. Users can limit their child’s daily allotment between 40 minutes and two hours. After they’ve spent that much time on the app on a given day, a video will pop up, prompting them to spend some time off the app. Users must enter a passcode to dismiss the message and continue using the app. To turn on screen time limits: Go to Profile, settings, digital wellbeing, screen time management, time limit, and choose between 40-120 minutes.

Family Pairing

Family pairing allows parents to remotely link their account with their child’s and control settings. This way, parents can enable restricted mode, screen time limits, and disable direct messages from their own phones. This is a good option for parents who think their kids will mess with their settings since they can’t change them without parental approval. Note that family pairing is limited to controlling these settings. It doesn’t allow parents to see the videos kids watch, messages or comments they receive or send, or the accounts they interact with.

Reporting a Video or User

If a disturbing video comes up on your child’s feed or someone leaves an inappropriate comment, there’s always the option to report it to TikTok. Like similar systems in other forms of social media, how effective this method varies. To report a user:

  • Go to their Profile
  • Select the three dots in the top right corner
  • Select report
  • Select why you are reporting them

To report a comment: select the comment, then select report, and follow the instructions to detail why you’re reporting the comment.

Restrict Photosensitive Videos

For users with sensitivity to flashing lights, TikTok provides a setting that will block any videos like this that could potentially trigger photosensitive seizures. To restrict photosensitive videos:

  • Go to their Profile
  • Select Settings
  • Select Accessibility
  • Choose Remove Photosensitive Videos

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