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TikTok and Online Safety: What Parents Should Know

If you’re the parent of a tween or teen, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the wildly popular social media app TikTok, a video-sharing platform where users can create, watch and share homemade videos shot on their phones. The app has become a hub for many teens who enjoy it as an entertaining, creative outlet, and the hours of fun it can provide draws in users from all over the world.

With users as young as 10 years old participating in the social world of TikTok (all the way up to adults in their 40s and 50s), it’s important for parents to understand the risks associated with the app and the safety implications it could have on their children. All social media platforms come with some level of risk, and the same is true for TikTok. Here are the age restrictions according to TikTok’s official guidelines:

  • The official age requirement to use TikTok is 13 years old.

  • Users between the ages of 13 and 15 have their accounts set to private by default. This prohibits them from utilizing the private messaging feature and only allows friends to comment on their videos.

  • Only users over the age of 16 can record live videos (also known as a “Livestream”) or use the private messaging feature.

  • Buying, sending, or receiving virtual gifts is restricted to users 18 and older.

Even with these restrictions in place, the potential for online threats still exists. As with any social media platform, the possibility of contact with strangers runs high—given the interactive nature of the TikTok community, this is especially true for TikTok. Other risks include the potential for exposure to elicit content, cyberbullying, and general data privacy concerns.

While these risks certainly shouldn’t be ignored, there are several parental controls that can be activated to help mitigate them. Not only that, but being proactive about discussing internet safety with your children (and as a family) might be one of the best ways you can keep your child safe online. To learn what parental controls are available on TikTok and how to set them up, check out this in-depth guide by Panda Security to walk you through each step. Having a safe experience on TikTok is absolutely possible, as long as you’re equipped with the right tools and knowledge!

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a video-sharing platform where users can watch, create and share videos shot on cell phones. The content found on TikTok runs the gamut from lip-syncing and comedic dancing to educational videos on topics like health or politics. The app provides an interactive world of video-based content where users can connect with each other. But as the TikTok craze continues to spread worldwide, many parents wonder about the safety implications of the app their kids can’t get enough of, particularly if their kids are on the younger side.

TikTok’s official age requirement is 13 years old. Users between the age of 13 and 15 have their account set to private by default, which prohibits them from private messaging and only allows friends to comment on their videos. Only users over the age of 16 can record live videos or use the private messaging feature.

The community associated with the world of TikTok makes it particularly interactive and engaging for users. In addition to creating their own videos, users can follow other creators on the app and engage with their creations through likes, comments, and messages.

Although TikTok has become an entertaining and engaging pastime for many, every social media app comes with some level of risk when it comes to online safety and data privacy. While the majority of content is harmless, there are still some areas of caution to be aware of.

Risks to Consider

If your child uses TikTok and you’re worried about what exactly they’re getting into, you aren’t alone. Educating yourself on the potential safety issues associated with TikTok can help you determine whether or not you’re comfortable with your child using it. Here are the main risks to know about the app.

Exposure to Inappropriate Content

TikTok is split into two main feed sections. The “Following” feed only displays videos created by the users you follow. The “For You” feed curates a stream of suggested videos based on your account activity and the type of content you typically watch.

Things can get problematic when it comes to the For You feed, which could end up surfacing videos containing inappropriate content—whether it’s sexually explicit, profane, or physically dangerous.

While TikTok’s guidelines bar users from sharing illegal or inappropriate content within the app, videos aren’t manually monitored and vetted. Instead, digital algorithms are used to filter out content that violates TikTok’s guidelines. This means that some inappropriate content will inevitably slip through the cracks and make its way onto users’ screens.

Contact With Strangers

With over 1.1 billion people using TikTok, the potential for communicating with strangers runs high. Accounts created by those over the age of 16 are set to public by default, meaning their account activity is visible to anyone. This means they can communicate with anyone and everyone they encounter on the app, including strangers. While accounts made by kids between the ages of 13 and 15 are set to private by default, this restriction can easily be bypassed by entering a false birth date when registering for an account.

Having a public account means more than just having your profile and videos visible to anyone on and off TikTok. It also allows your account to be suggested to other users within the app, enables anyone to comment on your videos, and allows your videos to be downloaded by other users. While these settings can be adjusted to allow for more privacy, the possibility of contact with strangers will always exist.


You’re likely aware that social media and cyberbullying go hand in hand, and TikTok is no exception. Whether it’s strangers sharing their harmful opinions or even comments from friends your child knows in real life, TikTok—like every other social media platform—provides a fertile ground for cyberbullying to take root.

A major form of cyberbullying that’s occurred increasingly within TikTok is body shaming. Famous TikTok users have spoken up about their personal experiences being body-shamed in the comment section of their videos and dealing with an endless slew of harmful comments about their body shape and size. This can have far-reaching effects on younger users who are still developing mentally and physically, potentially leading to feelings of worthlessness and humiliation.

Data Privacy

A common concern with any social media platform is the question of how your data is being used. The important thing to realize is that while we tend to think of social media platforms as free, they technically aren’t. They’re paid for by advertisers in exchange for companies like TikTok to show their ads to users on the app.

In order for those ads to be successful and reach their ideal target audience, they need data about those people. That’s how TikTok (and many other social media platforms) makes money: by selling user data to advertisers.

With this in mind, parents should understand what data is being collected on their kids and how it’s being used. TikTok gathers your country location, Internet address, and the type of device you’re using. With your permission, it can also have your exact location, phone contacts, and activity on other social media channels. In addition to your age and phone number, TikTok also has access to any private messages sent within the app.

Safety Measures to Take

If you want to ensure your child uses TikTok safely, there are several steps you can take. TikTok has a variety of privacy control settings that you can set up from your child’s account that can provide a safer experience on the app. Read on for an overview of what safety settings you can manage in TikTok, along with some additional safety precautions you can take to make sure your child is staying safe online.

Use Family Pairing

Family Pairing Mode is a recent addition to the available privacy control measures you can manage on TikTok. Both the parent and child must have their own separate TikTok accounts in order to enable it.

Once enabled, parents can link their account to their child’s and have control of important privacy settings from their own devices. (Previously, parents had to adjust privacy settings within the app on their child’s device.) It’s also password-protected, so unless your child guesses your passcode, they can’t go in and reverse the settings you put in place.