HOW TO USE TIKTOK TO CONNECT WITH KIDS
TikTok is one of the most loved apps by tweens and teens. As parents, it’s beneficial to relate with their student by understanding in which social media they participate and the people to whom they connect. So in this post, I help parents understand how to use TikTok to connect with kids.
WHAT IS TIKTOK?
TikTok is a social media app that allows people to create and share content with personal friends and the TikTok Community. It first started as a simple way to share 15-second lip sync or karaoke videos in an app called Musical.ly. In 2017, a China-based company purchased Musical.ly and merged it with an existing app and renamed it TikTok.
HOW IT WORKS
Music is still the base of what and how users share things. They lip-sync songs in serious or humorous ways. However, talking and sharing are also increasingly available.
An “Original Song” is simply a video featuring a user sharing whatever they want on the microphone. Although Tiktok labels the video as a song, it is still just a recorded voice.
Students enjoy this app because they find new music, watch friends, share their talents, laugh at funny content, or watch strangers do anything.
HOW TO USE IT
If parents want to use TikTok to connect with kids, they need to know how to use it! Fortunately, it’s relatively simple. Just like any social media, users can create a unique account/username so that friends and peers can find one another.
Create an Account
Sometimes real names are used, and other times the username is based on the type of content the person shares (i.e., comedy, singing, jokes, etc.). Once someone creates an account through an email or phone number, they will be able to add a profile photo or video to share with others.
After creating an account, users are prompted to “Find Friends.” They can view the “Profile” tab which holds the “Settings” feature. These are useful sections for parents to check so they can see where and with whom their student is connecting.
Main Features of TikTok
When a user opens the app, there are five tabs at the bottom of the screen: Home, Discover, Camera, Inbox, and Me.
This section is the default landing page for each time a user opens the app. There will be a “For You” string of videos waiting for the user or a “Following” string of videos that their followers/friends have posted.
“For You” supplies content based on past searches, liked songs or users, or frequently visited users. If the content in the “For You” is inappropriate, it means the user has searched for similar material.
In preparation for this post, I watched and listened to a song from Blanco Brown. When I opened the app, I saw another TikTok from a different user with the same song.
The “Following” section displays videos from people the TikTok user has followed, friends, or other accounts.
This section is a familiar tab, similar to the Instagram tab with the same name, where you can discover new content, users, or categories. Search for keywords or categories of playlists that already exist. Some examples are #collegefootball, Trending Creators, Fandom, Beauty & Style, Comedy, etc.
Use the camera to create a video. Add music/sound, flip the camera, change the speed of the video, add “Beauty” features to touch up or clean up the look, add filters for combined effects, set a timer, and adjust the camera flash.
Add effects to the video that fill the screen or even upload a photo from the camera roll. From here, select the length of videos, such as 15 seconds (default) or 60 seconds.
The inbox notifies the user of comments and likes from posts. It will also send notifications if someone has started following or saved/downloaded one of the videos.
This section is the User Profile settings and content. Add friends, see stats on followers, get details on followers, and see how many likes they have received. This area is the location for profile settings, including privacy, followers, and the Digital Wellbeing section.
There is another feature that is important to understand. TikTok has a currency called “Coins.” It allows users to buy additional content like emojis or “Diamonds,” then the user assigns them to videos and other users to thank them or “like” the video.
PROS & CONS
If a student has asked a parent to use the app, I encourage parents to download the app and familiarize themselves with its features.
If a student has an account, open the app on their device, and see how they are using it. There are so many creative ways people use this app, so parents and students can have a great time viewing the content. Just remember that there are no guarantees against inappropriate content.
Keep in mind that within this app, users can find and interact with other users. The danger lies in who and what they are viewing. A student doesn’t have to follow someone to watch their content, which means there may not be a “paper trail” of the viewed content.
If this is a concern for parents, one suggestion is to limit TikTok app usage to an open area within the home and turn up the sound. This option allows parents to manage the material.
I could not locate a feature which allows parents to manage language, but there is a section in the settings called “Digital Wellbeing.” Each of the options requires a 4-digit passcode which they can create and keep. They can give the passcode to their student when they choose.
The “Screen Time” feature will allow you to set a daily time limit on the app with a timed “on-off” button.
“Restricted Mode” will “limit the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for all audiences.” This mode seems to help but is a bit ambiguous as to precisely what it filters out.
Social media is a unique way for students to connect with friends, share experiences, and be creative. However, these sites can usher in other unwelcome things, such as anxiety, depression, and a dependence on the connection they receive from their screen.
By keeping an open dialogue and monitoring the time spent on the app, parents can use TikTok to connect with kids. The more opportunities they can find to engage their son or daughter on their terms, the more likely he or she will share, too!
If you are a parent and are interested in learning about TikTok, we made a simple video to show you how the app works. In less than 13 minutes, learn how to:
- Understand the TikTok app
- Create an account
- Pros & Cons
We know that you, as a parent, make the best decision for your family and we hope this tutorial on TikTok helped you in the decision process.
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Tony Bianco has been in Student Ministry for over ten years with his wife, Diamend, with whom they have two amazing kids. He is a former Radio DJ, Technology Reviewer, GameStop Manager, Apple Store Expert, and the author of The Family Technology Plan. You can contact him at www.familytechnologyplan.com.
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