TikTok Deep Dive Cybertraps Live 068

In this episode we will do a deep dive about TikTok and give parents ideas and suggestions for how to manage TikTok at home.

  • What Is TikTok?

    • A free social network service that focuses on the sharing of short videos (15 seconds to 3 minutes) with background music
    • It is available on iOS and Android
    • It was originally launched in 2017 but did not really take off until it merged with another Chinese social media service called Musical.ly
    • Interesting question: Is TikTok the new Facebook?
  • Who Built It?

    • TikTok is the global version of a Chinese app called Douyin.

    • Both apps were developed and are owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance

    • Douyin has a number of features not available outside of China yet, including e-commerce, in-video search (using facial recognition), etc. Expectation is that those will come to TikTok soon.

      • Will propaganda follow?
    • Trump attempted to ban the app, but Biden reversed his executive order

    • ByteDance reported earnings of over $34 billion in 2020

    • Company is testing a Stories feature that will cause videos to disappear in 24 hours

  • Who Is Using It?

    • As of October 2020, TikTok had over 2 billion mobile downloads
    • In its Terms of Service, TikTok says that use of its app is restricted to people age 13 and older
    • However, a NY Times article in August 14, 2020 reported that “TikTok classified more than a third of its 49 million daily users in the United States as being 14 years old or younger …” ( https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/14/technology/tiktok-underage-users-ftc.html )
    • Underage use without specific parental consent violates the Child Online Privacy Protection Act
    • In 2018, Musical.ly paid the Federal Trade Commission a fine of $5.7 million for violating COPPA
    • In the UK, an estimated 44% of children ages 8-12 use the app
  • How Are People Using It?

    • Production of amusing / goofy videos
    • Education
    • Influencing
    • By following specific users
    • Searching hashtags
  • Anecdotes

  • What Are Some of the Risks That Parents Should Consider?

    • Privacy

      • TikTok asks for a user’s age during the registration process but it is easy for kids to lie

      • TikTok also says that it uses software tools to estimate a user’s age, including:

        • Facial recognition
        • Comparing the user’s social media network and activity with other people whose age has been estimated
        • Buying information from other sources (presumably linked through user ID or mobile ID)
        • Company statement: “As is standard practice across our industry,” the company conducts “high-level age-modeling to better understand our users and allow our safety team to better protect the safety of our younger teens in particular.”
      • In April 2021, the UK and the EU sued TikTok for billions for allegedly violating child privacy ( https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-56815480 )

        • The suit alleges that “TikTok takes children’s personal information, including phone numbers, videos, exact location and biometric data, without sufficient warning, transparency or the necessary consent required by law, and without children or parents knowing what is being done with that information.”
        • TikTok denies the claim
    • Unsupervised purchases

      • Users can earn “TikTok Rewards” that can be redeemed for coupons for real-world brands
    • Inappropriate Content

    • Risky Challenges

    • Misinformation / Disinformation

      • Anyone can set up an account
      • TikTok does have community guidelines but enforcement is a challenge (as with every social media network)
      • Increased need for media literacy among children
    • Radicalization

  • Suggestions for Parents

    • Explain to your child that he or she can’t use the app until he or she is 13
    • Follow your child in the app and monitor activity
    • Discuss potential risks and encourage questions
    • For children ages 13-15, TikTok automatically sets accounts to private and they should stay that way (limits comments to friends, another aspect of the app parents should monitor)
    • From ages 16 to 18, users can livestream and use direct messaging (parents need login credentials to see DMs)
    • Above 18, users can “buy, send, or receive virtual gifts)
    • See Common Sense media guide for more suggestions
  • Resources

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