What is TikTok?

Sing and dance like the superstars and create a cool video. The TikTok app makes it easy to do just that. The focus here is on recording, editing and sharing videos. For their clips - so-called TikToks - primarily young people then receive likes and comments from other users, most of whom they don't know.

On the homepage, the first video is played immediately after opening the app. For many young people, they offer ideal opportunities for entertainment and distraction. Those who create their own profile can upload the TikToks they have created and also share them on other platforms, such as Instagram. Users can also support their "idols" through monetary gifts based on real money.

Risks

TikTok age rating - no effective control

Officially, TikTok may be used from the age of 13. According to the terms and conditions, the declaration of consent of the parents is required for under 18-year-olds. However, the specified minimum age and the consent of the parents are not effectively checked in practice. Thus, younger children can also download and use the app without any problems by stating a false age.
Via the "accompanied mode" , parents have the option of protecting their child from being contacted by strangers.

Content harmful to minors

In addition to clips in which young people perform playback to their current favorite songs, the platform also features numerous other videos. These include creative and funny contributions, but also inappropriate and youth-endangering content. According to research by jugendschutz.net, right-wing extremist and Islamist content is also disseminated, as well as videos glorifying self-harm .

Copyright

Users are often unaware that the videos they create are not exclusively their own work, despite their own creative efforts. Songs that are available on TikTok are licensed only for the TikTok platform and can be used to create videos on the platform. If copyrighted music is used in videos and these videos are further distributed in other services (e.g. Instagram, YouTube), warnings can therefore be threatened. As soon as other people are visible in the video, the right to one's own image must also be observed.

Cost trap in-app purchase

While downloading and using the TikTok app is free of charge, users can support their "idols" by donating money to draw attention to themselves. The "coins" for the cash gifts are settled with real money via the app stores, PaySafeCards or the mobile phone bill. The most expensive packages currently include 10,000 Coins and cost over €100 (as of January 2022). To avoid cost traps, parents should deactivate in-app purchases through appropriate settings on the smartphone.

Cyberbullying

As enjoyable as confirmation on TikTok can be, negative comments or slurs can in turn be hurtful. Particularly drastic: Videos are also disseminated outside the service for bullying purposes and the protagonists are exposed. Under #peinlich, for example, you can find clips of embarrassing TikTok videos and hurtful comments by YouTubers and their subscribers on YouTube (source: jugendschutz.net).

Delete TikTok account

If the risks are too great or if you simply no longer want to use TikTok, you can delete your account. To do this, it is not enough to remove the app from the smartphone. In your own profile, you can select the option "Delete my account" in the settings. The account is then deactivated for 30 days before it is permanently deleted. TikTok wants to offer the possibility to restore the account again. Step-by-step instructions are available online at Saferinternet.at.

Safe use

Age-based default setting of accounts

Since January 2021, all accounts of people between 13 and 15 years old are automatically set to "private". This means users* in this age group can now decide for themselves who can follow them and who can watch or comment on their videos. The comment function under the videos is deactivated in the default settings and can only be used by "friends" after changing the basic settings. Strangers can no longer comment on videos of 13-15 year olds. The "Duet", "Stitch" and "Suggest your account to others" functions are disabled for the 13-15 age group and can no longer be downloaded. Even if the internal download function is deactivated, other users can still save videos with the help of special programs.

The accounts of people aged 16-17 are also restricted in some functions. "Duet" and "Stitch" are available, but set to "Friends" in the default settings. Downloading of one's own videos by other users* is disabled in the default settings. However, this function can be reactivated later.

All of the security measures described above are only effective if the correct date of birth was entered when the account was registered.

Tips for parents

Try TikTok yourself or let your child show you the app. This way you can have your say, better understand the fascination and the risks, and recognize whether the app is suitable for your child.
You should talk to your child about the following problems that can occur when using TikTok:

  • Cybergrooming
  • Cyberbullying
  • Copyright infringement
  • Cost traps
  • Content harmful to minors

Decide together with your child what kind of videos on TikTok are okay and which are not (e.g. no revealing videos or those that allow conclusions about the place of residence or school). If other people are also visible in a video, they must be asked for permission before posting.

  • To agree on individual usage rules you can use the tool media usage agreement .
  • Using the supervised mode , parents can set the usage times of the app (40, 60, 90 or 120 minutes per day), limit contact opportunities and have certain content intended for adults filtered out via restricted mode.

Inform your child about copyrights. Songs that are available on TikTok are licensed and can be used to create videos on the TikTok platform. However, videos with copyrighted music should not be distributed on other platforms (e.g. Instagram, YouTube) because the music licenses only apply to TikTok. As soon as other people are visible in the video, the right to one's own image must also be observed.

Encourage your child to give free rein to their own creativity - in the videos does not necessarily have to be your child themselves in the picture! With a little skill, you can also create other video formats.