I’m not gonna lie. When I recently learned there were moms out there doing TikTok dances with their teenage daughters, I wanted in. I almost downloaded the app. I almost willingly gave predators access to my kids just so I could earn a few cool mom points. Fortunately, my practical mind resurfaced and I walked away from that temptation before Chinese-owned TikTok could steal anything else from me (other than the ten minutes of my life lost while I watched my girls trying to learn the Carol Baskin edition of Savage that they learned from YouTube).
TikTok is a popular social media video app that has been downloaded by hundreds of millions of kids, teens, millennials, adults, and social influencers alike. Users can create short videos set to music, post viral memes, and communicate with each other. The monotony of the Corona/Covid19/Wuhan Virus quarantine has only boosted the popular app, making it America’s go-to boredom buster. But is it safe?
There’s a lot of banter occurring right now in an attempt to answer that question, but this mom says NO. No, TikTok is not safe. It’s not safe for me and it is certainly not safe for my kids. Let me share with you three red flags that every parent should consider before exposing their children to TikTok.
Red Flag #1
The red flag you’ve probably seen waving the most in the media recently is marked by the name CHINA. Yes, TikTok is a Chinese-owned app that collects significant amounts of personal data from American users, like most US-based apps do as well. The difference? China is a communist country with values greatly differing from ours. When we subscribe to this app, we are willingly handing an adversarial foreign government every detail of our lives collectively, as a nation.
We’re showing them where we shop, what we eat, how much money we have in savings, where we live, and where we spend most of our time. American app users simultaneously and cooperatively hand China a complete dataset of our way of life, and in return make ourselves willing partakers of mass manipulation and social control from a propaganda-pushing adversary. Is TikTok a form of cyber spyware? Probably not. Has TikTok been in the media for months because of its weak security measures and previous data breeches? Absolutely. Yet, TikTok is a national security risk that Americans continue to willingly engage in for the sake of 15 seconds of social media stardom.
Red Flag #2
The second red flag I see comes in the form of explicit content. With a minimum required age of only 13 years, young TikTok users have access to endless adult language and sexual content. You don’t have to search hard for it – it will find you. So, even young users with the best of intentions are likely to find themselves face to face with inappropriate images, videos, and language. Even worse, TikTok doesn’t remove images of children being exploited by adults, normalizing this abuse for children.
TikTok does now offer some parental control through the Wellbeing monitor on their app. Parents can regulate time limits, privacy, and shared viewing between the parent and child. Of course, this doesn’t stop a child from creating a second account that the parent knows nothing about. That’s why it’s important for parents to educate their children on the dangers this app poses in addition to removing the app from their devices.
Red Flag #3
For me, the biggest, most dangerous red flag of all represents the pedophiles and other sexual predators that watch little girls making videos all day and then groom them to be trafficked. I know, as a parent, that you want to believe this kind of thing happens to other people’s children and not yours but according to an FBI agent who spoke with the founder of Love Missions, if your child has a phone or tablet, they have already encountered a human trafficker.
Did you catch that? Your child has already been targeted by a pedophile. Yes, other apps are dangerous as well, so why am I picking on TikTok? Because TikTok’s lack of proper security measures makes it easy for pedophiles and other hackers to track your child’s geolocation, private photos, and messages. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation added TikTok to the 2020 Dirty Dozen List, calling the app “a major contributor to sexual exploitation”.
They’re not the only ones concerned. The US Army and Navy have already been instructed to remove the app from all government phones and tablets. The Democratic National Committee has cautioned their staffers against the app. The entire country of India has banned the app while the US and Australia consider following suit. The red flags are waving world-wide and yet parents continue to ignore the warnings for the sake of their children’s happiness.
This Mom’s Takeaway
I have five kids. They’re the reason I stand up and speak out. I want them to be happy, too. Fortunately for them, I care much more about their physical safety and emotional wellbeing than I do about their 15 seconds of fame. If a red flag doesn’t sway your opinion, consider the weight of all three red flags waving together. Are you willing to gamble your child’s safety in the hands of Communists, adult entertainment workers, pedophiles, and hackers? Parents, we can do better than TikTok for our children.
~Heather Tabers, Love Mission Volunteer