Is TikTok safe? | How to keep your child safe and their devices safe

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At VPNOnlineFree aims to educate people about privacy and security on the Internet. In this guide, we answer the questions – Is TikTok safe for children? Is it secure? And is there a way to reduce the potential risks?

TikTok is already one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, and its popularity has only increased in the past few months due to the self-isolation of COVID-19. In the first 3 months of 2020, TikTok downloads exceeded downloads from Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

However, several security, privacy and security concerns have been raised about the application. Parents have expressed concerns about sharing adult content with younger children on the app. Some even mentioned that their children were contacted by strangers via the app.

In the United States, TikTok has been banned in certain military branches due to application security concerns. This of course increased media coverage of application vulnerabilities and also led to more confusion.

Is TikTok safe for children?

TikTok is an application that has been examined under a microscope to endanger children. The first thing to remember is that TikTok is an application aimed at discovery and notoriety. TikTok users are making videos which they hope will be seen by as many people as possible.

Many people have become famous on TikTok, and it is natural that young people want to watch videos of musicians, artists, comedians and other emerging influencers. For some children, the desire to gain followers is also a main motivation to interact with the platform, which can worry parental guardians.

TikTok is home to many cyber-stalkers, cyberbullies and predators

In its default state, TikTok is often considered dangerous for minors due to the way it can expose them to unwanted contact and content. Unless specific settings are enabled, TikTok will allow videos uploaded by children to be viewed by anyone. And if a video becomes popular, it is possible that it will go viral and be served to millions of people by the TikTok algorithm.

To make a TikTok account private, follow these steps:

  1. head to your profile which appears at the bottom right of the application.
  2. Go to settings, it's the icon with three dots in the upper right corner of your profile.
  3. Click on “privacy and security”.
  4. Activate the private account.

TikTok, like many social media platforms, is home to cyber stalkers, cyberbullies and predators. Unless a child's account is carefully monitored and the default settings are changed, a child may be inappropriately contacted in video comments or in private messages.

One measure you can take to ensure that your children are not contacted by strangers is to Allow others to find me a function. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Access your profile or that of your child.
  2. Click on settings in the right corner (the three dots).
  3. Go to the “privacy and security” settings.
  4. Clear the “allow others to find me” check box.

Another concern is that children can see adult content. Some children have even created their account using a false date of birth. By doing so, the platform will automatically serve them videos intended for adults. These types of videos can be very inappropriate and may contain abusive, violent, sexually explicit content, or other types of extreme and inappropriate content.

Other ways to secure your Childs TikTok account

We have a list of all the other ways to secure your child's TikTok account in one in this guide.

Dangerous TikTok challenges

It should also be noted that children can actually create content about themselves, and that content can be served to them by AI even if their account is set up as securely as possible with the correct DoB.

In the past, various worrying challenges in which children encourage themselves to film themselves by doing strange and dangerous tasks have appeared:

Many other challenges have gone around TikTok, and they can seriously harm your child. So be sure to talk to your child to explain that these types of challenges are crazy. And that the people who pass around such videos are not to be trusted and should never, never be emulated. Being famous for being an idiot – or dead – is not something to be proud of. So be sure to root this in your children as much as possible.

Twinning of the TikTok family

Due to complaints raised about TikTok and its potential to endanger children, the developers of TikTok have recently rolled out new parental controls for the platform.

The family matching mode allows parents to link their TikTok account to their child's account.

This allows parents to disable or limit who their child can send a message to. And to activate the “restricted” mode of TikTok in order to limit the potential for dissemination of inappropriate content.

It is a giant step in the right direction. However, since TikTok uses AI to distribute content to children, it is possible that the algorithms still broadcast videos that parents deem inappropriate.

Content created by children will be served to other children if that content is popular, as that is how the platform is designed. If children do not report this content as dangerous, risky or inappropriate, then it could spread quickly and be seen by thousands of children.

For this reason, parents should not expect the new coupling feature to work as a catch-all that can be defined and forgotten. Instead, parents will need to carefully monitor their child's interactions with the platform and should encourage open and honest conversations about any content that appears in their feed that concerns them or seems inappropriate.

TikTok scam to be aware

Since TikTok started to become popular over a year ago, it has become infested with fraudsters and scams. There are many bogus accounts whose sole purpose is to befriend, phish, or trick users into following questionable links. The open nature of TikTok means that you can potentially be approached by anyone, including hackers.

Phishing and data theft

Never give out personal information

Cybercriminals often use carefully crafted scripts to deceive their victims, who are very cleverly designed to use people's emotions, desires or fears against them. These types of scams are mainly based on the numbers game and finally fall on a victim who believes in lies.

The first thing to remember is that you should never disclose personal information to anyone you meet on TikTok. Even fairly trivial information can be useful to a hacker.

If you say the wrong thing, give your email address, or provide other seemingly unimportant information, you may end up being the victim of identity theft or secondary phishing attempts.

Amorous scams

Fake accounts are generally designed to attract people and are often deliberately designed to appear misleading. Romantic scams lure people into long lasting conversations that ultimately lead to the victim of information or money being stolen.

If someone on TikTok starts to make you feel attached to them and later asks you for money, public transit tickets or any other type of consumer product such as a new phone, this should ring instantly.

Remember, never to give your PayPal details to someone you meet on TikTok or anywhere else online. And Never again provide your bank details or card information.

Doubtful links and “premium” snapchats

Another popular TikTok scam is to lure people to the following links to dating sites so that they can take advantage of the link juice. On other occasions, fraudsters will use stolen photos and videos of attractive people to trick TikTok users into paying for “premium” Snapchat access, only to be scammed when they find out that the person never really existed .

The important thing to remember here is that if a TikTok user tries to lure you to another platform, it could be a sign that they are trying to scam you. Platforms like Snapchat don't require users to sign up using a phone number, and for this reason, they are generally considered a better place to fight scams.

Get more follower scams

Another scam to watch out for is users and services that promise to provide free subscribers. These types of websites and apps are designed to steal user information from them in order to use their credentials to hack into their accounts or to perform secondary phishing exploits.

Influencer scams

In this scam, fraudsters exploit fake accounts that appear to belong to important influencers to trick TikTok users into paying for services. On one occasion, a mother was robbed of $ 4,000 when her daughter paid “coins” to make lip sync with her favorite pop star.

Antivirus will stop TikTok Malware

To download malware and be a target due to a virus, we recommend that you install good antivirus software on your device. We have a list of the best services in the articles below:

TikTok security issues?

You will likely be aware of the security concerns associated with TikTok.

In December 2019, the U.S. government banned all military personnel from using TikTok on their devices. The reason? TikTok is an application developed in China designed to work closely with the Chinese government for surveillance and espionage.

What is important to understand is that the videos people upload to TikTok are supposed to be used for training facial recognition algorithms owned by the Chinese government. In addition, all the data collected by the application is sent back to servers in China. This includes device-level credentials and location data that could allow the Chinese government to create a database of your daily habits.

It should be noted that security researchers have already discovered vulnerabilities in the platform that could allow hackers to intercept information and content, take control of accounts and give the impression that a TikTok account approve specific videos.

According to these researchers, for example, hackers could give the impression that someone's account is approving videos that propagate misinformation about COVID-19 (or other subjects).

Is TikTok bad for privacy?

Whether you are concerned that TikTok is collecting data for the Chinese government will largely depend on your own personal threat model. The company previously claimed that data for U.S. citizens was actually stored on ByteDance servers located in Singapore. According to TikTok, this prevents it from complying with Chinese data requests.

Critics, however, believe that the Chinese government has too much power over Chinese companies – and that there is too much risk that user data will be collected for surveillance purposes. One thing to remember is that TikTok added facial recognition capabilities to its platform last year. As a result, it collects facial biometric data that could theoretically put users at risk if the data were hacked, disclosed or transmitted to the Chinese government.

It has also been claimed that ByteDance even harvests videos that users choose not to download. This means that even videos that users choose not to publish are collected and stored by the Chinese social media company, without their knowledge or consent.

At the end of the day, Snowden's revelations revealed that American businesses are just as bad when it comes to invading people's privacy and working with governments to do surveillance. It is up to you to decide if TikTok does the worst for your privacy. Some people may even think that they prefer the Chinese to hold their data rather than their own government. Of course, in the end, it is a decision that only you can make.

Your own government is supposed to primarily desire your protection, while the interests of a foreign government are strategically aligned with the national security of your nation state. Do what you want with it.

How to protect yourself and your children on TikTok

Regarding TikTok in particular, it is important to carefully change the privacy settings of your child's TikTok account.

    1. First, make sure their account and downloaded videos are only visible to their friends.
    2. Then make sure that their account can only receive and send messages from contacts with whom they are friends. Additionally, you may want to prevent your child's videos from being recommended to random users. To do this, deactivate Allow others to find me in the privacy settings.
    3. If your child wants their videos to be discoverable, you should at least keep people who can comment on these videos to prevent them from being exposed to cyberbullying or hateful comments. Under Who can post comments, select friends or Of. You can also configure a keyword filter to prohibit comments with particular words or use TikTok's automated moderator by selecting Filter spam and offensive comments.
    4. To prevent others from downloading and keeping your child's videos indefinitely, go to the settings menu and Allow download to select Of. To block specific users who appear to be a bad influence or concern; go to the profile of this contact, press the three-dot icon in the top right, then select Block followed by To confirm.
    5. Next, check your child's account to make sure it has been set up with the correct date of birth. Also, check the accounts they follow to make sure they aren't exposing themselves to inappropriate content.
    6. That done, use the Family twinning to connect your account to your child's account.
      This will allow you to monitor what your child is watching and to monitor and disable direct messages. Using Family Matching, make sure your child can no longer access adult content by activating Restricted mode. However, keep in mind that turning on the above privacy and security settings doesn't solve everything.
    7. TikTok streams videos using AI, and your child may still be exposed to inappropriate videos uploaded by users their age. So be sure to not only set up your account securely, but also continue to carefully monitor content and friendships.

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