TikTok parents’ guide: what it is, how it works, and how to use its parental controls

TikTok is one of the most popular social networks in the world right now, and it is particularly successful among younger people. In many cases, it is causing a gap between the older ones who prefer Twitter or Instagram and the younger ones who are fully dedicated to TikTok, so sometimes it may seem that we even speak different languages. And if you are parents who don’t understand social networks, things get even more complicated.

So, if you’ve seen your son or daughter doing weird dances or talking to you about challenges, maybe it’s time to catch up a bit. With that in mind, we bring you a special guide for TikTok parents, so that you can understand exactly what this social network is and what kind of content is on it. In addition, we will also explain how to set up parental controls on your child’s account to make sure he or she is using the network safely.

The purpose of this article is to familiarize you with the social network and its content. Therefore, we will try not to bog you down with a very long guide, and although we will try to make it as complete as possible, we will try to keep it brief and simply explain things.

What is TikTok


TikTok is a social network based on video sharing. It started focusing mainly on music videos, but over time it has evolved to become a platform where you can find all kinds of videos. These can be short as in Instagram stories but also long, having a maximum length of up to three minutes.

This flexibility in terms of the length of its videos allows TikTok to attack many fronts at once. On the one hand, short videos have the same immediacy as Instagram stories or Snapchats, appealing to many of its users (in fact, you’ll see some people uploading TikTok videos on Instagram as stories). Meanwhile, with longer videos, they can also position themselves as a YouTube rival to be reckoned with.

The original name of the app is Douyin which means “shake music” in Chinese. Because it is not an American app as in most cases, but one born in China. However, outside China, it goes by the name TikTok, and you can find it available for both iOS and Android or Windows.

The app was launched in September 2016 after being developed in just 200 days. Its growth has also had a spectacular speed, because if according to Chinese portals, last February the partner network had a total of 66 million daily active users, in October 2018 other sources pointed out that it had surpassed the barrier of 130 million users. By mid-2021, data point to 689 million monthly active users.

What you can do on TikTok

Tiktok interface

Maybe if you are a parent and have ended up in this article, it is partly because your son or daughter spends a lot of time-consuming or creating content on TikTok. And the fact is that this platform has managed to be more than just a social network for uploading and consuming videos, as it allows various types of interaction with the content created with other users.

For starters, yes, you can create your videos on TikTok, but differently from other applications. You can create different recordings or scenes by pressing and releasing the record button, which gives you more flexibility to create complex videos compared to making the whole video at once. In addition, you can also create videos from images.

As for these videos, you have three different length settings, which can be 15 seconds, one minute, or three minutes. The videos can have filters, and you can change their speed. You can take them at the time or use the memory of your mobile. In all, you will be able to add sounds or songs, and also add a countdown for each time you go to start recording.

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When editing the video, You can go by selecting shots or phases to add other effects on your own. You have for example a series of filters in the style of Instagram, as well as different types of effects to manipulate the videos. The editor will mark with different colors the different areas where you have edited the video.

You can also interact with other people’s videos. For example, you can make a Duo, which will create a video where one side will show the original video and the other your own so that you can make reactions because both are played at the same time. There is also a “Paste” mode, where you can edit someone else’s video but change the ending yourself.

TikTok allows you to configure your account so that other people can also download your videos as well as interact with them, or even create animated GIFs with them. In addition, the social network has its hashtags system to tag videos by categories and topics and a page where you can see what content is trending.

TikTok also has an internal chat system, which you can use to write text messages to other users. So your kids can not only consume or create content but also talk to other people using the platform.

How old are the people who use TikTok?

TikTok is used by people of all ages, although it is true that it has a greater impact on young people. According to some usage statistics in the United States, 62% of users in that country in 2020 were between 10 and 29 years old. In terms of gender,

In terms of gender, things are pretty evenly split, with an estimated 53% of users being male, and 47% female. Although this depends on the country, as in the United States, the female audience is 61%. In any case, it has a fairly balanced proportion.

Is TikTok safe for your children?

TikTok has a series of systems and limitations to protect younger users when they connect to the social network. However, this system is applied depending on the age that the user indicates they are, so it is important that you check that your child has registered with their real age so that the application can apply the limitations if necessary.

From here, TikTok applies limitations to the accounts of users between 13 and 15 years old. For example, their accounts are private by default, which means that only people accepted by the user will be able to access the videos they upload to their account on the social network.

In addition to this, users between the ages of 13 and 15 will not be able to receive comments from people who are not their friends, i.e. who follow each other. They will also not have the private messaging function activated by default, nor will they be able to create duet. In addition, the accounts of minors will not be suggested to other people to follow them.

Here, you should note that these are limits that are mostly set by default. This means that if nothing is done they are imposed, however, the user can go into their privacy settings and change them. Therefore, it is advisable to review these settings with your son or daughter and check them from time to time to see that nothing has changed.

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The accounts of those over 16 years old will already see some functions released, for example, they will be able to start creating Duets, and set up their videos so that other people can download them. Because videos from minors can never be downloaded. In addition to this, there will now start to be a curfew on TikTok notifications. Users between 13 and 15 years old will not receive notifications from 9 pm, and those between 16 and 17 years old from 10 pm.

Is TikTok content appropriate?

Tiktok video

In general, the content on TikTok is appropriate and very varied, although there may always be users uploading other types of content, so it has a system that automatically deletes videos that are inappropriate or violate its rules of use. There are types of content that TikTok has zero tolerance for, for instance, videos that refer to sexual abuse.

TikTok has an automated moderation system that focuses on identifying and removing hate speech, bullying, and harassment. In addition, its algorithms also automatically remove several categories of content that violate its policies, such as the safety of minors, adult nudity and sexual activities, violent content, and illegal activities.

TikTok also tries to be careful about the content it recommends to minors so that it is always appropriate. However, despite all these security systems, it is always possible that some content manages to bypass the filters and be inappropriate, so it does not hurt to check the profiles that the child follows to know who follows.

For this, it may be useful to agree with your son or daughter that you follow each other so that you can access their profile by being “friends” with them, and review their list of users they follow. Good communication is always important.

You can report users who are bothering you

Report users

Like all social networks, TikTok has a reporting system to warn those responsible for the service that a certain user is bothering you or carrying out another activity that is not allowed, either through private messages or through their publications.

What you have to do is to enter the user’s profile and click on the three dots button on the top right to see the option to report. You can also report from private messages by clicking on the user’s name and then on the three dots button to see the option.

Here, depending on whether you have initiated the process from their account or a private message, there will be different reporting options. You can report another user for harassment or bullying or for endangering the safety of minors. Also for violent content, animal cruelty, or self-injurious actions. In addition, you can report dangerous organizations and individuals, illegal activities, fraud, scams, or pornographic content.

From a user profile, you can report live broadcasts or their posts, as well as report the account itself for pretending to be someone else, making inappropriate posts, or having inappropriate things in their profile data. You can also report users you believe to be minors pretending to be of legal age, or for violating intellectual property rights.

Use their parental control system

TikTok Parental control

TikTok has its parental control system called Family Sync. With this system, parents can link their TikTok accounts to their children’s accounts to remotely control privacy settings, and make adjustments as they see fit whenever they see fit.

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What you have to do is log in to your TikTok profile on your mobile, access the settings, and click on the Family Sync option that appears in the Content and Activity section. Here, you will need to say that you are a parent or legal guardian, and a QR code will be generated. Then, also go to the Family Sync section with your daughter’s or son’s phone, and by choosing the option that you are a minor you will go to the camera function to scan the QR.

Once both phones are synchronized, you will be able to control the settings of your child’s account through yours on TikTok. You have several options available, such as limiting the maximum time they can use the app each day to make sure it doesn’t take up all their time.

These are all the settings you can make on your son’s or daughter’s TikTok account once you have linked it to yours via family sync:

  • Search: You can disable the search engine so that it cannot search for content, users, hashtags, or sounds.
  • Screen time management: As mentioned before, you can set the limit of how much time per day TikTok can be used.
  • Restricted mode: This is used to limit the content accessed by the little ones so that nothing that may be inappropriate for minors appears within the For You feed.

In addition to these three main options, you also have several privacy and security settings to limit comments or direct messages, among other things. Here’s everything you can manage your best friend’s account from your own:

  • Comments: You can configure who can comment on your child’s videos, and it can be everyone, just their friends, or no one.
  • Visibility: You can decide whether the account is private or public, depending on whether you want their content to appear in other people’s searches.
  • Videos you like: You can see the videos your son or daughter has liked, being able to block access to certain accounts whose content he or she has liked.
  • Direct messages: You can restrict who can send him or her direct messages, or disable them completely.

As you may have read throughout this article, when a user’s account is set up so that their date of birth states that they are a minor, some of these settings such as visibility are changed by default to make them private accounts. However, the fact that these settings are preconfigured by default in a certain way does not mean that they cannot be changed, hence the importance of being able to set the family sync.

With it, you will be able to review whenever you want the settings of the account of your son or daughter, and so you can have more control over your privacy without the risk that they then change it whenever they want without you knowing.

In any case, it is always important to have good communication with them, and I invite you to talk to them first if you are going to make these adjustments. The best protection is information and explaining to them why you are making some adjustments or what they are exposed to if you don’t make them will be very important for them to learn to defend themselves in the virtual environment.

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