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Is TikTok a Threat?

TikTok is a free social media app that has recently grown in popularity. While mostly used amongst the younger generation, TikTok has become wildly popular during the last few months as more users have joined during quarantine.

Recent headlines, though, have suggested that TikTok could be problematic, as some sources have suggested that not only is it a cybersecurity threat, but it could also be a danger to young kids and teens. We want to help you and your family stay safe while using TikTok. We’ve answered some questions about TikTok, as well as how you can help further protect you and your family.

What is TikTok?

TikTok is a free social media app that allows users to watch, create, and share videos. These videos mainly consist of lip-synchs to popular songs, fun sketches, or impersonations. Not only are users exposed to fast-paced entertainment (a trait picked up from TikTok’s predecessor, Vine), but they are utilizing TikTok’s unique algorithm. This algorithm, called FYP (For You Page), serves users videos based on their likes and interests. If TikTok notices a user liking videos of beauty and hair tutorials, the TikTok algorithm will serve that user more tutorials based on that information.  

Is TikTok a Cybersecurity Threat?

What worries the cybersecurity world most about TikTok is its parent company, ByteDance. Because it is a Chinese company, there are many who fear that the Chinese government could use TikTok as a way to gain potentially critical information, which is why some countries and U.S. Military Branches have banned the app from all mobile devices. 

However, the majority of information that TikTok is collecting appears to be the same as any other social media platform, at least from what TikTok has disclosed. Many people have taken to deleting the app and videos all together, however, there are many who simply surf the web version of the app without an actual account, so TikTok does not have any actual data.

When it comes to social media and cybersecurity, one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family is to make sure you use strong passwords that are unique for each app or site and not to share sensitive information on these platforms. Sensitive information could include your date of birth, name of pets, and where you went to high school; this information could help a hacker to guess or reset an important password by answering security questions, allowing them to access your information or funds.

Should My Child Use the App?

Even though TikTok is a great source of fun entertainment, there are concerns of child safety when using the app. There are over 800 million users on TikTok, which has made it the sixth most popular social network in the world. Even though the number of people using TikTok is steadily climbing, about 70% of the users are between the ages of 13 and 24.

For young users, TikTok presents itself as a real risk, as accounts are public by default, meaning anyone can see videos you post, send you direct messages, and use your location information.

Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe

We want you and your family to stay safe. Here are some tips for parents and guardians so that you can make sure your children stay safe and use the app wisely.

Make the Account Private

If you decide that your kids can continue to use the app, a security measure to put in place is to make the account private. This way, only approved users can follow your child’s account and view videos that they post.

To make your TikTok account private, go to your profile page and select the three-dot icon in the top-right corner. Select Privacy and Safety. There, toggle the switch for "Private Account." Additionally, you can also select who can send you comments and direct messages, and who can do a duet with you. The TikTok duet function allows users to create TikToks that appear to be side-by-side with their friends – or random users – regardless of their location. You can make it so that only “friends” can send direct messages, comment, and duet, or you can further restrict this by not allowing any user to do these actions, further limiting any contact that your kids may have with strangers.  

Turn On Parental Controls

Another way to ensure safety for your kids is to turn on parental controls in the app. By doing this, you can pair your child’s TikTok account with your own so that you can set time limits, filter mature content, and disable direct messaging for kids' accounts.

To set up Family Pairing, download TikTok onto your phone and create an account. On both your phone and your child’s phone, tap the three dots next to the user profile; tap Family Pairing and sync your account to your kid's via the QR code 

While technology and social media is a part of our everyday lives, it’s important to remember that we need to use them safely. Teaching your kids to utilize social media in a safe way will instill positive habits down the road.

Our main priority is making sure you and your family stay secure. At Blackhawk, we take security very seriously, which is why we want you to stay up-to-date and informed. To learn more about how Blackhawk Bank can help you, contact us today!

Author: 

Brian Mertens
Network Engineer