A Parent’s Guide to TikTok

In this parents' guide to TikTok, you'll learn what TikTok is, why it's so popular and how to make the most of it with your kids.

If you have a teen, you are probably familiar with the social video-sharing app, TikTok. It’s so far the No. 1 downloaded app in 2020 and the sixth largest social media network according to HootSuite. Users love it for the trending dances (e.g. “Renegade” and “Kolors”) and challenges (e.g. “Runway Walk” and “Wipe It Down”).

But there is so much more you need to know about the app including safety precautions and specific features. Learn more about TikTok in our parent’s guide below.

What is TikTok?

Released in 2018, TikTok allows users to view and upload short videos with songs, voiceovers and other sounds. These videos can cover various topics including dancing, singing, comedy and recipes. While Gen Z is more commonly known to use the app, other generations have jumped on TikTok more recently. You’ll also find celebrities, influencers and other content creators creating videos. 

How does TikTok work?

Once you sign up, TikTok users can browse through categories and hashtags to find various videos from users around the world. Some people like to watch and share videos, while others enjoy posting as well. You can record and edit videos through the app. The videos can last for up to 15 seconds or if you use multiple videos in one post, up to 60 seconds.

From there, users can also use features like Effects, Duet (with other videos) and Filters to edit in their videos. Sounds are the most popular feature on the app. Users explore the menu of sounds to find what’s trending ranging from today’s top hits to popular voiceovers from movies or viral videos. Once the video is posted, anyone can see the video based on TikTok’s algorithm unless your account is private.

Is TikTok safe for my kids?

Parents should be cautious, like any other social network. TikTok requires that users be at least 13 years old. There are also some videos that might include inappropriate content like swearing or sexual references. It’s important to sit down with your child and set a few rules when posting on the app.

While accounts are automatically public, you can change a user’s settings to turn videos and messages to private. Depending on your child’s age and your parenting style, it might be a good idea to use these private settings and only allow your child to become “friends” with people they know in real life.

What are TikTok challenges?

Challenges can easily become viral on TikTok. Once you’ve been on the app long enough, you’ll notice many videos that are replicating others. These trends may start with a popular song or a certain challenge like the Album Cover and I’m Just A Kid. Most of these challenges can also last for weeks or months by using the same hashtag or the same sound.

While most of these challenges are organic, many brands have jumped on the trend to advertise their product. Take a look at the ScoobDance, advertising the latest Scooby Doo movie. Brands might also ask and pay TikTok influencers to try out the challenge as sponsored content.

What is TikTok’s “For You” page?

TikTok’s “For You” page is similar to a discover or explore page where you watch various TikToks regardless if you follow the user. Once you like and interact with enough videos, your “For You” page will adjust and find videos that might fall under your interests.

TikTok algorithm isn’t clear, but a video can easily land on that page and instantly go viral. Anyone can get their 15 minutes of fame and it doesn’t matter how many followers you have to begin with. The “For You” page can also spark new trends and challenges for TikTok users.

How can I use TikTok with my kids?

What’s most interesting about TikTok is that you see a lot of kids doing TikToks with their parents! Some teens like to try out these challenges or dances with their parents. It might be a little awkward or make you look goofy, but we think it’s a great way to bond with your child. The whole family will have a good laugh, too. You can also create a family TikTok account and set it to private if you want to make some videos with your younger kids.

Katina Beniaris
Katina Beniaris
As audience development manager, Katina Beniaris digs into data to help the Metro Parent team learn about our audiences and tailor better content for them. She has more than five years of experience in content creation.


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