A Guide to Parental Controls for TikTok

14 min read by Bogdi

published 10 luni în urmă, updated 10 luni în urmă

TikTok is the most popular social media platform for teenagers in the world. However, before your kids are teenagers, you'll need to control what they're exposed to on the platform. While there are some fun videos for kids to watch, there are a lot of inappropriate videos too.

Parental controls can be set on TikTok by using Restricted or Family Pairing Mode. Control can also be achieved by disabling followers and comments. Parental controls are important for kids who use TikTok since TikTok can expose them to cybersecurity risks, sexual content, and other dangers.

Putting restrictions on your kid's TikTok account can help keep them safe, but only if you know how to do it effectively. Read on to learn more about how parental controls on TikTok work and how you can protect your children when they use it.

Age Limits and TikTok

Before you get started setting up your child their own TikTok account, you should note that there are age restrictions associated with use of the social media platform. TikTok does not allow users under the age of thirteen, so if your child is under the age of thirteen, then they don't need to have their own TikTok account.

If your child is thirteen or older, they're old enough to have their own TikTok account. However, if they're under the age of eighteen, they'll still need a parent or guardian's approval and verification to use the website.

TikTok Age Restrictions

Even if you don't put in deliberate parental controls on your child's account, TikTok automatically puts restrictions on any profiles it has of users below the age of thirteen. Here's an overview of how profiles are restricted based on user age range (Source: TikTok Support):

  • Users under the age of 16: Users under the age of 16 on TikTok will have a profile that is set to private by default. Users under 16 cannot download videos, cannot Stitch videos, and cannot Duet with anyone but themselves. Only approved followers can comment on the user's posts.
  • Users between 16-17: Once TikTok users turn 16, their profiles are public by default. The website also begins to suggest their profile to other users, and videos can be downloaded. Friends and approved users can also comment on posts and videos. Stitch and Duet settings are set to friends only.  

While the options for TikTok users between 16-17 do open up significantly, this doesn't mean that teenagers get free rein on TikTok. Users under 18 can still have their options restricted by linking their account to a parental account.

Can Kids Under 13 Use TikTok?

Kids under the age of 13 are still able to use some aspects of TikTok. However, their experience with the platform is much more heavily curated. Here are some of the restrictions placed on TikTok users under 13:

  • Kids under 13 can only view clean, curated videos that have been screened for offensive content
  • Kids under 13 are not allowed to comment, search, or post their own videos

The children's version of TikTok is fairly safe for children even without parental controls. However, the problem with this is that bypassing the age restriction is easy by just putting in a false birth date. It's not exactly the most foolproof system against underaged kids who are tech savvy and want to access the full platform.

Is TikTok Age Appropriate?

The adult version of TikTok is not age appropriate for users under 13. TikTok is a social media platform that is geared primarily towards teenagers and young adults. While there is a curated version of TikTok available for kids, this version of TikTok is not popular and many kids will attempt to bypass parental controls to get full access to the site. (Source: Common Sense Media)

Does TikTok Allow Searches for Sexual Content?

If you're worried about your kids looking up sexual content or porn on TikTok, it's not something you have to worry about. While there are a lot of people dancing on TikTok in sometimes suggestive or skimpy clothing, the platform doesn't allow any user to look up videos based on pornography or sexual content.

Why Restrict Your Child's TikTok Activity?

Restricting your child's TikTok activity or monitoring it might seem like an intrusive act, but there are many reasons why users under the age of 18 should have their behavior monitored online while they learn to use the Internet responsibly.

Here are just a few of the reasons why TikTok activities should be restricted and controlled for kids:

  • Inappropriate videos: While many videos on TikTok are just silly pranks or dance routines, there are some sexual/violent song lyrics and other questionable content that may pop up on the adult version of the platform. The restricted mode of TikTok is designed to keep kids from being exposed to videos like this.
  • Inappropriate strangers: Like other social media platforms, TikTok is another part of the Internet where you need to be worried about strangers trying to directly message your child and potentially stalk or groom them for sexual predation. Restricting who can follow your child on TikTok and who can comment on their posts can deter this behavior.
  • Addictive format: All social media platforms are physically and mentally addictive to a degree, but TikTok seems designed to intentionally reduce our attention span. Overuse of TikTok or other flash media can lead to symptoms of withdrawal if the media is removed such as irritability and depression. Set screen time limits to control exposure.
  • Adult messages: While content on TikTok might not be overtly offensive, many people use it as a platform to air political or ideological messages that you might not want your child exposed to at a young age.
  • Cyberbullying: Along with getting propositioned by creepy and questionable people, using social media also exposes kids to cyberbullying from both anonymous strangers and their peers. Monitoring your child's social media allows you to nip any nasty behavior in the bud before it has a chance to cause emotional damage.

There are lots of fun things about TikTok-otherwise, it wouldn't be one of the most popular sites on the planet. But there is a darker side of TikTok too that you don't want your kids exposed to before they're old enough and mature enough to handle it.

TikTok and Cybersecurity

There has been much talk recently about how TikTok potentially poses a cybersecurity threat. At one point, there was even talk in the international news of this social media platform being banned in the United States due to concerns over its Chinese ownership and related data-mining activities.

TikTok is not a completely secure digital platform, despite the parental controls it has put into place. Any social media website you use for free is allowing you to use it in exchange for your data, a valuable product it can then sell to third-party buyers in marketing and other industries.

Because of these cybersecurity threats, the best way for your child to use TikTok is to avoid putting their personal identifying information on their profile. This means keeping their real name, address, phone number, and other intimate details off the website completely. This is a concept that should be taught to kids early to help them avoid digital exploitation.

The information that can be pulled from a person's TikTok account may not be incriminating for a teenager, but it's important to teach your kids early how to protect their own privacy online. This can help prevent them from getting involved in digital blackmail, cyberbullying, and worse.

How To Set Your Child's TikTok Account to Private

While your child might not be happy about the idea of having their account set to private until they're eighteen, this is one of the easiest ways to protect them through TikTok's parental controls. When the child's profile is set to private, these are the restrictions that are put into place:

  • Other users on TikTok cannot see your child's posts
  • Other users on TikTok are not able to comment on your child's posts
  • Other users on TikTok don't see your child's profile or posts in their recommendations

Luckily, setting your child's TikTok profile is a simple process. Use the following procedure to change your child's user profile to Private:

  • Go to your child's user account and click on Privacy and Safety.
  • From the Privacy and Safety menu, choose Private Account and click on it.

Know Who Is Following Your Child on TikTok

When it comes to children on TikTok, it's often other people you have to worry about. If other users start following your child and your child follows them back or befriends them, this can leave your child vulnerable to direct messages from a stranger who may or may not have their best interests at heart.

There are a few ways that the parental controls on TikTok allow parents to control their children's followers:

  • Restricted Mode: The restricted mode on TikTok prevents followers from being able to follow your child. It also prevents your child from receiving direct messages through other users on TikTok.
  • Family Pairing: The Family Pairing mode on TikTok allows you as the parent to sync your TikTok account with your child's. After syncing, the child's TikTok will be directly accessible from the parent's account so that you can approve your child's users on an individual basis depending on whether they know your child in real life or not.

If you don't want to attach your own TikTok profile to your child's TikTok profile or you want to leave your teenager's account open to receiving follow requests, you can monitor your child's followers by watching their profile and investigating anyone who tries to follow them.

Keep Your Child's TikTok Account Anonymous

Another way for parents to protect their child's TikTok account is to prevent them from putting their real name or other personal information on their TikTok account.

The way that TikTok profiles are set up, your child doesn't have to put their real name on the front of their profile for everyone to see. This can help keep them anonymous and protect their personal data even after they get old enough to have a full TikTok attached to their real name.

Restricted Mode on TikTok

Restricted Mode is an available filter on TikTok that you can turn on in your child's profile that helps keep inappropriate content out of your child's TikTok feed. It also prevents your child from being able to message other users on TikTok, and it prevents other users from being able to message them.

The easiest way for parents to apply Restricted Mode to their child's account is to use the Family Pairing mode. Family Pairing makes it easier for parents to control and customize every aspect of their child's TikTok experience.

Family Pairing on TikTok

Family Pairing is TikTok's master parental control program, and it's probably the easiest of their parental control protocols to use. It does require you to have access to both your account and your child's account to activate.

Family Pairing is a way that you can sync up your parental TikTok profile as the master profile to your child's TikTok profile. This allows you to act as a manager for your child's account and all of its Digital Wellbeing options such as screen time limitations, Restricted Mode, and keeping the account private.

The Family Pairing setting is an improvement on TikTok's previous parental controls, which allowed you to control your child's privacy settings but only by accessing their profile through their device. By syncing your child's device up to your own TikTok profile, you can adjust their privacy settings or override their screen time limitations remotely.

Here's how to set up a Family Pairing sync on your TikTok (Source: We Live Security):

  • Tap Me to access your account page.
  • Tap the three dots at the top corner of the screen. This will take you into the Settings submenu.
  • Scroll down to find Family Pairing and click on it. At this point, you'll have the option to choose whether you're the parent in the relationship or the teen. Click Parent and confirm to continue.
  • Take your child's phone and use it to scan the QR code presented by the Family Pairing menu. This will sync the two devices and the two accounts together.

Once you've synced your TikTok profile with your child's TikTok profile using Family Pairing, it's simple enough to keep control of what they do on the platform. Restricting your child's access to direct messages, R-rated content, and being followed by strangers can make a huge impact on keeping your child safer online.

Controlling Comments and Followers on TikTok

One of the best things about the parental controls system on TikTok is that it allows parents to monitor and control their child's comments and followers. When your child is interacting with TikTok, the greatest threat comes from other users rather than the child's own activities.

Here are a few tips for helping to control your child's comments and followers on TikTok:

  • Keep your child's profile private. This will automatically disable comments and will prevent other users from even being able to see your child's profile. This allows the child to experiment with the software without being exposed to other users until they're old enough to handle themselves.
  • Only allow your child in-real-life (IRL) followers. Strangers have no business following your child's TikTok account, and there's no way for you to be able to tell who is actually behind the screen in these relationships. Prevent your child from being groomed by a potential predator by keeping their digital connections tied to their personal ones.
  • Disable comments. TikTok gives users the option to either disable comments from certain followers or from all followers. This allows parents to quickly shut down any trolling comments or cyberbullying if some comments are allowed. Disabling all comments prevents any interaction between your child and other users.
  • Disable direct messages. There's no need for a child to receive direct messages on TikTok when they're first learning how to use it. Direct messages can be dangerous on social media platforms because they can put your child in intimate contact with strangers that may take advantage of them.

At first your child may feel like your parental controls are too restrictive, especially if they're not allowed to have followers or comments. But a few years of online monitoring is well worth the trouble if it can prevent your child from running into trouble on social media.

TikTok Time Limits

When it comes to letting your kid use TikTok, it isn't just inappropriate content you have to worry about. Many preteens and teenagers become addicted to social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram and can spend way too much time on the website. These are just a few of the reasons why you should consider restricting the amount of time your child spends on TikTok (Source: Very Well Health):

  • Childhood obesity: Too much time in front of screens has made kids more sedentary than they were in the past. This puts them at risk of becoming obese due to lack of physical activity. Children who develop obesity are more at risk of becoming overweight adults. Excess weight in adulthood can lead to a wide range of health problems.
  • Behavioral issues: Children who spend two or more hours a day in front of screens have been shown to exhibit more behavioral problems like tantrums and irritability than kids who get plenty of time away from their devices.
  • Sleep problems: Too much screen time has been shown by science to be bad for sleep for kids as well as adults. It's a popular pasttime for both groups to use television or smart device screens as a way to wind down and get ready for bed, but exposure to blue light emissions in the hours right before bed can disrupt sleep cycles. (Source: Sleep Foundation)
  • Desensitization to violence: There is a risk of children who are exposed to violent or sexual content becoming desensitized to these subjects at an earlier age than they have the maturity to deal with them.

So how do you limit the amount of time your child spends on TikTok? TikTok conveniently comes with a screen time management mode that allows either the user or their parent to restrict the amount of time spent on the app per day.

Screen Management allows you to set limitations on your child's TikTok so that they're restricted to anywhere from 40-120 minutes of screen time. Screen Management allows the child to use TikTok past the time limit, but it requires the entry of a passcode from the parent before they can override the restriction.

To set screen time limits for your child on TikTok, use the following procedure (Source: Connect Safely):

  • Tap on your child's profile, tap the three dots in the top corner, and select Digital Wellbeing.
  • From the Digital Wellbeing menu, select Restricted Mode or Screen Time Management.
  • Through the Screen Time Management menu, choose a time limit for your child's account between 40 and 120 minutes. Use the passcode to confirm your selection.

You're likely to hear more griping from kids about time restrictions on your child's TikTok account than any other parental control you use. However, teaching your kids about healthy interactions with social media can help prevent them from developing any related mental difficulties related to excessive social media dependency in the future.

How to Spend Safe Time with TikTok and Your Kid

One of the best ways to exert parental control over your child when they're using TikTok is to use TikTok together with your child. The Family Pairing mode helps facilitate this, but there's also a few other ways you can help your child learn how to interact with TikTok safely even when you're not actively monitoring their profile:

  • Make TikTok videos with your kids. Not only is this a great bonding activity, it also gives you an opening to have a conversation about appropriate content creation. This will help you teach your kids what is and isn't a good idea to post as content for TikTok or other social media platforms.
  • Watch your child's TikTok videos and comment on them. One of the reasons children argue about being restricted on TikTok or try to bypass parental controls is that their profile isn't public and they can't get comments. Help reduce their disappointment by being an active follower of your child's feed and encouraging them.
  • Teach your kids about the dangers of viral challenges. Some viral online challenges on TikTok and other social media platforms are silly and harmless, while others such as the "skull breaker" and the "choking game" can range from dangerous to deadly. Warn your kids about the consequences and dangers of digital peer pressure.
  • Get a TikTok account and learn how the site works. Even if you don't link up your TikTok account to your child's TikTok account through Family Pairing, knowing how the website works can help you figure out how TikTok works and how it can potentially be exploited by your child to bypass parental controls.

If you've never had a TikTok account before and your child wants to register, you might be a little clueless about how the platform works. Knowing the technology your child uses and how they're likely to engage with it can give you a better understanding of how to protect them when they're using it.

Tips for Enforcing Parental Controls

When it comes to setting up parental controls for social media or other online activities, monitoring and enforcement is only half the battle. While it's easy enough to restrict activities on TikTok through its parental controls, you might have to deal with some resistance (or at least some whining) if you're not smart about getting your kids on board.

The biggest problem with forcing parental controls on your children or teenagers without their consent is that many are tech savvy enough to find ways around parental controls, such as setting up accounts in secret and lying about their birth date during registration. Other than monitoring all of your child's online activities all the time, there's no way to prevent this.

Instead, it's a good idea to help your kids see that parental controls are meant to be helpful to them, not a burden. You aren't monitoring their activities to keep them from having a good time, you're doing it to keep them safe.

Here are a few ways to make the transition to parental controls easier on your kids (Source: Canopy):

  • Give them notice ahead of time. Having their phones locked down out of the blue will be shocking and will receive a lot more resistance than letting kids get their heads around the idea beforehand. Give them a week or two of notice before installing parental controls so that they know what's coming and have time to process it.
  • Don't set up parental controls in response to risky behavior online. If you want your kid to develop a negative relationship with parental controls, the best way to do it is to use parental controls as a punishment. Keep the discussion on parental controls focused on cyber security and personal safety, not discipline.
  • Don't spy on your kids. Parental controls should not be set up as a way for parents to actively engage with their children's social lives. It's simply a way to make their digital lives more secure. Avoid unnecessary conflicts with your children by staying out of your child's private conversations online unless risky behavior is involved.

Parental controls can receive some considerable kickback from teenagers who feel that their autonomy is threatened. Showing your child that you trust them and you're willing to let them have a private life online while also monitoring them is a balancing act that requires regular communication to keep positive.

Parental Controls for TikTok are a Must

Even if you don't have any personal interest in having a TikTok account of your own, it's crucial for you to learn how the website and its parental controls work. Children are vulnerable to many negative scenarios when they interact with a social media platform, and it's your responsibility to make sure that they stay safe whenever they're online.

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