Understanding TikTok - the latest social network sensation with teenagers

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One of the most popular social platforms among teenagers at the moment is a video sharing app called TikTok. The app has grown massively in the past year with more monthly downloads than Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat.

TikTok, launched by Beijing-based tech company ByteDance, is a music video app that allows people to create and share short videos of themselves singing, dancing and having fun with their pets. The app makes it easy to produce and edit videos with users having access to a vast array of sound and visual effects they can add to their videos.

Why has it become so popular?

The biggest appeal of TikTok has to be its comedic and entertainment appeal. You can get creative by producing videos or see others express their creativity and get “TikTok famous”.

It has created its own brand of comedy and the algorithm behind the app makes it enticing to binge-watch videos. The most popular “TikTok influencers” have millions of followers, who regularly watch them dance, lip-sync and perform whacky comedy skits. Some of the biggest stars include 17 year-old Loren Gray and 18 year-old Baby Ariel both with around 30 million followers.

But TikTok isn’t just about entertainment and fame. Teenagers are also using it to express opinions and topics they’re passionate about. An example is the recent Global Climate Strike where many students produced videos to share their message about climate change and to support the strike.

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What parents should be aware of

From a privacy perspective, parents should be aware that videos created on the platform can be shared with anyone. The app only has two settings when posting videos - private where only the user can see them or public for everyone to view.

There are concerns around elements of how TikTok handles privacy and data. The app was fined by the US Government earlier this year for illegally collecting personal information of users. There have also been questions around how ByteDance cooperates with China’s state censors to ban certain types of content.

As with other social platforms, cyberbullying also exist on TikTok so parents should be aware when their kids are being cyberbullied.

Finally, one way for parents to get familiar with TikTok is to use it with their kids. There are lots of videos on TikTok videos where parents join in on the fun with their children.

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