Is Tik Tok safe for kids/teens? App comes under lens as popularity grows

Himanshu Arora Himanshu Arora Dec 27, 2018 Apps, News

Update (January 30):

After ‘hit or miss’, a new meme/trend is taking over TikTokers. It involves Tik Tok videos where users appear to be eating their own fingers. Check out details here.

Update (January 08):

While you may hear a lot about how kids are having crazy fun on apps like TikTok, Clip, and Kwai, investigations find these apps are also making them vulnerable and opening doors to exploitation. For details, check out out latest coverage here.

Update (December 28):

Is Tik Tok being over-advertised? A large number of people are complaining. Check out the complete story here.

Original story follows:

Recently, YouTube’s most subscribed channel PewDiePie released a video titled What is Tik Tok and is it Safe? Considering PewDiePie’s videos are mostly about meme reviews and funny commentaries in general, we weren’t surprised the video didn’t have any safety talk at all.

But given the exponential growth in TikTok’s popularity in recent times and the fact that it’s mostly being used by kids/teens, the ‘safety’ question is very much relevant and deserves a discussion at least.

So let’s begin.

Recently, Vice – citing publication Motherboard – came out with a piece explaining how the popular lip-syncing app is plagued with serious problems like white supremacy, Nazism, and hate speech in general.


Image via Motherboard

The article says the investigation done by Motherboard revealed Tik Tok accounts with calls for support to a violent neo-Nazi group having links to murders of Jewish people across the US. They also found other anti-Jew stuff as well as some Tik Tokers making Nazi salutes.

Moving on, just a few days back, CNBC came up with a hard-hitting investigative video revealing the ‘underage users problem’ plaguing Tik Tok and other popular social media platforms, as well as the disastrous affects it’s having.

Here’s the video, take a look:

The scary truth about underage users on Facebook, Snapchat and TikTok from CNBC.

Moving on, a new story from the Hong Kong Free Press touches on how Tik Tok – which became the most downloaded app on the Apple App Store earlier this year – is giving sleepless nights to parents.

The story says the app is getting popular especially among young girls, many of whom come up with Tik Tok videos showing them “suggestively singing along to sexually explicit lyrics which are often degrading to women.”

This often opens up doors to nasty/disturbing comments and attracts sexual predators.

Speaking of such people, there have already been a lot of rumors about a person who goes by @thebudday on Tik Tok. If you take a look at some of his Duets (a video where two users can combine their videos), you’ll agree there’s some basis to these rumors.

Earlier this year, Tik Tok was banned by the Indonesian government after authorities there found that it contains “pornography, inappropriate content, and blasphemy.” Here’s what the Indonesian minister of communications and information had said at that time:

The app has a lot of negative and harmful content, especially for children

The ban, however, was lifted following a meeting of TikTok executives and Indonesian authorities where-in the app company promised to put in more staff to help them scrub off such content.

In India too, a Member of Parliament from the ruling party raised concerns over apps like Tik Tok. Here’s what he had said:

There is an exponential growth in a few short video mobile apps due to their simple-to-navigate interface, and free availability on Google Play or App Store. Apps such as Kwai, Clip, TikTok, NewsDog, LiveMe and Helo, which threatens the safety of children are easily accessible and are becoming a new breeding ground for ‘grooming’ underage children for child pornography

For its part, ByteDance, the company behind the app, had earlier said they work extensively to keep Tik Tok users safe by using both software and a continuously growing team of moderators. The app is known as Douyin in China.

Featured image courtesy J Aubrey

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Himanshu Arora

My interest in technology and writing started back in 2010. Since then, I have written for many leading publications, including Computerworld, GSMArena, TechSpot, HowtoForge, LinuxJournal, and MakeTechEasier to name a few. Here at PiunikaWeb, my work involves covering on daily basis the biggest tech stories as well as scoops that you won't find anywhere else.