- Narda Skov
Here to Help! How to use TikTok's Parental Controls
Narda Skov, MPH Teen Health Educator and the NY Times, November 5, 2022
If you are like me, you are slightly overwhelmed by social media and how quickly it changes. I have said for years that the silence is deafening from Silicon Valley tech firms that have put out the various social media apps. Big tech firms know and market to youth and our kids flock to them, they are fun, new and exciting, however, the lack of guidance or instruction from these tech firms on how to keep your children safe is horrendous. I have a friend who worked at Google for years and when I asked them what was I supposed to tell parents about keeping their kids safe, they said "we are making the laws are being made as they are being broken"....meaning it is new for all of us and we'll all just have to taught it out. What?
It is my firm belief that all computers and phones, smart or otherwise, should come with all of the controls on and it is up to parents and adults to remove those controls. If you are old enough to have purchased a device that can connect you to the word and all of its information, good and bad, then you should be able to easily navigate the directions of removing some safety features. For parents, however, the option to keep those guardrails on would be a huge bonus that would give us a little bit of a head start in connecting our kids to the world wide web.
I have been keenly aware of the pitfalls of social media and how toxic it can be (Instagram and negative body image, for example), but post-pandemic, I believe we are all in need of some more instruction and I hope my reprinting or summarizing how to keep your kid safe online will be helpful.
TikTok has become a massively influential app and there are ongoing concerns about the mental health risks this app may also pose to young people. Here are some tips for parents on how to use the platform's parental controls:
First, set your child's account to Private. To do this, tap the menu icon in the upper right corner of the profile and select Settings and Privacy and choose Privacy. On the next screen, tap the button for Private Account.
There's more in the Settings and Privacy menu. In the Screen Time section, you can set daily time limits on using TikTok, schedule mandatory breaks that lock your child out of the app and see a summary of how much time was spent using the app.
Within settings, go to Content Preferences to set up the app to block videos containing certain keywords or enable the password-protected Restricted Mode.
Tap Filter Video Keywords to add keywords and hashtags that you want restricted. You can also choose which feeds to filter.
Restricted Mode attempts to limit exposure to videos that the platform deems unsuitable for all ages. You can enable the mode by selecting it on the Content Preferences screen and setting a password so it can't be easily disabled.
The Family Pairing feature allows you to link your own TikTok account to your child's for remote supervision and management. You can control who can send your child direct messages and who can comment on videos.
Even with the in-app controls, however, algorithms and filters are not foolproof. Software should never be considered a babysitter, and it's important to keep personal tabs on a child's account to make sure the TikTok experience is as safe as it can be.
I hope this is somewhat helpful and will allow you parents to not feel so lost in navigating the ever-changing landscape of social media. I know...it changes it quickly, and we did not grow up with it, so it is a constant learning curve - but hang in there! You have got this and social media cannot beat a tuned in parent for keeping our kids safe.