If you are not on the cusp of Millennial’s or from Generation Z you have probably not heard of the social media app TikTok. TikTok is an app that allows users to film 15-second videos that can be mixed with sound bites, effects and songs to be shared on the platform. This app has surpassed over a billion downloads and is near the top of the U.S. App Store, ahead of Facebook.
In recent months TikTok has has blown up. I don’t even have a TikTok and I would see some video clips that were shared on Twitter. The platform reminded me of Vine, short clips that get your attention, but with less of a creative aspect since a lot of the content on TikTok is people lip syncing or mouthing over sound bites.
TikTok was originally named Musical.ly until August 2018 when users of the app checked their phone to see a complete rebrand and a new interface, now called TikTok. Users of Musical.ly and their accounts were switched to TikTok. The app was bought by a Chinese company called ByteDance that absorbed Musical.ly into TikTok.
TikTok has seemed to turn the other cheek with allowing children under the age of 13 on its app and the Fedral Trade Commission (FTC) accused TikTok of knowingly hosting young users (my niece is 12 and has had TikTok/Musical.ly for over 2 years, so this does not surprise me). Allowing children on the app gave TikTok access to personal identifiable information such as: name, address, profile photo, email, etc. TikTok has agreed to pay a $5.7 million settlement in response to the allegations.
The settlement barely scratches the surface to an even larger issue encompassing the social media app. TikTok has the option to livestream and chat, which has resulted in children being contacted by complete strangers.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) in the UK surveyed over 40,000 students and 25 percent of children on the app have interacted with a stranger and 1 in 20 kids were asked to strip. The large, very young user base mixed with pedophelia has been coined has a “hunting ground” by a spokesperson of the NSPCC.
TikTok is clearly in some hot water, and instead of posting a press release or a mundane FAQ on its website, the app has done something much more creative to let users know how to protect their privacy and ways to stay safe on the app. The company has released a series of how-to video clips that are entertaining, fun and aimed to help users navigate their privacy settings. The safety series is called “You’re in Control” and can be found on the app @tiktoktips.
These are not your traditional tutorial videos, these videos are eye-catching and filmed vertically to match the apps interface. This is a very unique way to grab the attention of TikTok’s current user demographic to promote safety-related policies.
Obviously releasing a few short how-to videos to protect users privacy is not enough in the grand scheme of things. TikTok needs to enforce policies to crack down on users not following community guidelines and better protect the safety of children in regards to compliance. I am very interested to see what the future holds for TikTok.