Umm Muhammed Umar 28.01.2020
Do you have the TikTok app downloaded on your cell phone? Does your child have it? I know mine does. I have enjoyed plenty of amusing moments with my 12-year-old, thanks to the app, and have been proud to find him communicating with friends abroad, using it. However, it now appears the app has a sinister side.
The famous TikTok app has been downloaded by zillions, adults and children alike. The fast-growing video app was one of the most downloaded apps last year. Currently, it is available in 75 languages, with 1 billion active users recorded by last December. The app is said to be most popular with under 16’s, as an online portal for amusement, communication and creativity. Experts, however, are warning the social media site is not entirely safe for teenagers. Youngsters share their lives with the world through the site, and can easily attract online predators, and even, perhaps unwittingly, create inappropriate content. They can have their privacy infringed upon.
According to journalist Karishma Dipa, hashtags such as #tiktoksouthafrica and #southafrica indicate that TikTok has a total of 7000 videos and 350 000 South African fans. She writes that videos categorised with the hashtag #tiktoksouthafrica already have more than 400 million views.
Emma Sadleir, of The Digital Law Company, says that TikTok, if not properly monitored, could endanger those under the age of 18. Sadlier is a South African expert on social media law. Sadleir says a (seemingly) innocent act, such as girls posting videos of themselves dancing could catch the eye of those who have wicked intentions. Are you aware of what your child might innocently be posting on TikTok? My guess is most parents believe the site is merely full of amusing videos that are hilarious enough for us to share on our own WhatsApp statuses. If you’re not sure that your child has posted anything at all, now would be a good time to have a ‘Stranger Danger’ chat with them. If you do know that your offspring does dabble in occasionally posting a video on the TikTok app, it would be a good idea to monitor what they’re posting. Sadleir warns, “A huge user base of young children dancing to mostly sexually explicit lyrics is an absolutely perfect breeding ground for sexual predators.” Remember, dancing itself is unacceptable in Islam, and having an untold number of viewers watching your beloved baby dancing, puts the whole issue on another level.
Further, Sadleir adds, “Even more worrying is the huge amount of content relating to self-harm and suicide accessible through the app.”
Meanwhile, despite the app’s requirement that users be at least 13 years old to use it, and that anyone under the age of 18 must have approval of a parent or guardian, the BBC came across several accounts run by children, (like my child’s), some as young as 9 years old. The BBC, has found the app failed to remove online predators who were sending sexual messages to children. The account, in the case of a child under 13, has to belong to an adult who can closely monitor the type of content posted.
Worthwhile to bear in mind is that when you download the app, users can see all the content without actually creating an account. They are not able to post, like or share anything until they’ve set up an account on the app, but definitely can access what’s posted on it. This means all accounts are public, and so anyone on the app can see what your child shares. The good news, to an extent, is that only approved followers can send them messages. There is still the risk that strangers will be able to directly contact children on the app, because children may be tempted to take risks to get more followers or likes on a video. It is imperative that parents stress upon their children just how important it is to talk about what they share, and, with whom.