Throughout the year we work with whole school communities to provide internet safety training for students, parents and teachers. This enables us to see new trends and understand the online challenges that are facing parents and teachers.
We now regularly hear about large numbers of students using the social media video sharing platform TikTok. When we are working with Year 4, 5 and 6 students. Regularly 60% or more of the class will have used this platform.
What Is TikTok?
TikTok is a lip-syncing video creation and sharing app. It allows users to create a 15 second video to a song of their choice. Users can also create reaction videos or do duets.
As with any social media platform the Terms and Conditions say that users need to be 13+ to use the app (this is because of data protection) But as we said, many people younger than this are already using TikTok.
Why is it So Popular?
There is a low barrier to entry in terms of creating and sharing videos. They are only 15 seconds long, and you don't need to be able to sing or perform. Users can also add filters and easily edit before they upload.
What are the concerns for parents and carers?
User Generated Content
As TikTok features user generated content, it could be possible for young people to come across content that is not suitable to their age. This could be songs with explicit lyrics, offensive jokes or content of a sexual nature.
Easy To Upload & Share
One of the things that makes TikTok enjoyable to use is the low barrier to entry to create videos. Videos are only 15 minutes long, and you don't need to be able to sing or perform to create content.
The bad thing about the content being so easy to post is that a young person could post a video without thinking it through first.
If they change their mind about posting the video, it could be difficult to take the video down. Especially if the video is a duet, or if a reaction video is created.
Difficult to Delete Account
It can be difficult to delete your account on TikTok. A deletion code needs to be requested from the platform directly. This process can take weeks.
Anyone Can View Content Easily
To view TikTok videos, all that a user needs to do is to download the app. They do not need to create an account. This means that the content that is uploaded to TikTok is very public and potentially is seen by a lot of people.
This could leave users open to receiving a higher volume of comments on their posts.
As with most social media platforms, TikTok can increase the pressure on young people using the platform. There can be a need to appear popular and to 'chase likes' and followers.
This need to gain more likes and followers can lead young people to post content they may regret later.
What do parents and teachers need to know?
The best place to start is to find out what young people are actually doing on the internet. All schools and families are different, but for most primary schools in the UK a significant number of students will be using social media and TikTok.
This can start with a conversation in the classroom or at home. Create an environment where young people will feel comfortable talking about what they do online.
Don't make them wrong...
Many teachers may feel frustrated by the risks that young people take online. Or they may have the the opinion that primary aged students 'should not' be using TikTok.
The reality is that many are, and it may not be possible to stop students from using the platform.
For teachers, avoid closing down the conversation by telling young people what they should, and should not be doing online. Remember these platforms are highly addictive and have been marketing directly to young people. Many of the risks they are exposed to is a result of the developments in technology that is not the fault of the young person.
By starting the conversation, students will be more likely to speak up if they are encountering a challenge online.
We can also educate young people about the addictive nature of these platforms, and encourage students to make their profiles private. Which will give them greater control.
Positive, up to date and proactive online safety learning outcomes as detailed in Education for a Connected World, will help you to equip your young people to identify online risks and become digitally resilient.
What Happens Next?
Social media has changes the way that we communicate. These changes and the uptake of the platforms has been so fast, legislation has not had time to keep up.
Thankfully, changes are coming, to help safeguard young people while they are using social media.
If you would like up to date, engaging and positive internet safety training and internet safety workshops for your school get in touch with us and find out how we can help.