Is TikTok dangerous?

Mackenzie Lawrence, Staff Writer

Are you safe? If you use TikTok, it is impossible to know for sure. 

TikTok is a widely-used social media platform that allows users to share short videos. This app has more than one billion users with a broad range of ages. Its short user-generated videos provide endless entertainment to users, but it doesn’t come without risk. 

Due to the fact that TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, called ByteDance Ltd., no one knows exactly where their personal information is going, since Chinese companies do not have the same restrictions as their western counterparts. 

Although hackers don’t necessarily target TikTok any more than they target other social media apps such as Instagram and Snapchat, the app still gives hackers access to personal information, such as your name, age, phone number, and much more. This is dangerous for anybody, but especially children. 

TikTok can be an outlet for bullying as much as it is an outlet for entertainment. It could also give users, especially children, a chance to engage in dangerous activities and behavior. Due to this, TikTok has come up with several ways to increase safety. 

Examples of the app trying to protect the user’s safety include restrictions such as not being able to use the direct messaging feature unless you’re at least 16 years of age, and limiting the amount of people that can comment on videos.

Beside the fact that your personal information may be accessed, the app does feature dangerous and inappropriate trends.  

In an effort to make sure children don’t follow these trends, they put warnings on some videos, saying that they don’t encourage the actions featured in the video. Although they do take this step in trying to limit dangerous behavior, especially in young children who are easily manipulated, some videos are not seen by TikTok monitors.  

Decatur junior Tessa McNeill said she makes her account public but chooses not to post content as a precaution to not have her personal information shared.  

“When posting a video, hundreds of millions of people could possibly view it,” she said. “There’s also a constant concern that someone could start a trend doing something dangerous, inappropriate, or someone can post information about themselves or others.” Other platforms like Instagram and Snapchat don’t have that same amount of concern because it is much harder to go viral on those platforms.  

Along with dangerous and inappropriate trends, some videos include suicidal thoughts or even suicide itself. During early September of the year 2020, a video of 33-year-old Ronnie McNutt killing himself went viral. TikTok eventually took the video down, but several people already saw the traumatic post. Now, anyone who posts the video will get banned from the app. Although the video is no longer circulating, people of all ages were still traumatized.  

In order to maintain your safety while using the app, make sure to look through all of the privacy features available. These include: making your account private, censoring your comments, restricting direct messaging, and many more features to protect your safety.  

If you do choose to make your account public, you have the option to make your posts available to the public or only your friends. This helps people that want some of their videos to be seen by the public eye, but not all, stay safe.  

Another threat to safety that people may experience are predators on TikTok live streams. When you choose to do a public live stream, anyone can join and comment at any time throughout the stream. You do have the choice to remove people from the live, but some younger children don’t realize the danger they are exposed to.  

Along with predators on TikTok livestreams, the option to comment creates an outlet for cyber bullying. Often on lives, large creators have monitors that monitor the chat to make sure everything is positive and appropriate.  

“I do have friends that have received inappropriate messages on the app,” McNeill said, adding that she herself has not experienced that. Even though she refrains from posting, she has been a victim of cyber bullying in the comment section of videos occasionally.  

Many adults also use TikTok and even make videos about their children. Some people show themselves making meals for their children or even just silly videos of them doing different activities. 

Maia Knight, a popular TikTok mom, gained more than eight million followers by sharing videos of her newborn twin girls, Scout and Violet. The children are now just 1 year old, and millions of people know their full names.  

At first glance, Knight’s TikToks are fun and innocent, but now that countless people know so much about her daughters at such a young age, they’re extremely dangerous. There have been many videos circulating around the app of people that constantly check babysitting apps to see if Knight is looking for a babysitter, in an effort to get closer to the famous toddlers. This shows how much danger Knight is putting her daughters into without realizing it. 

Knight has just recently gone public with the fact that someone shared her location when she was on vacation with her daughters. She shared that it made her feel extremely uncomfortable and unsafe. This caused Knight to make all of her videos private for a short period of time so she could rethink her decision on how much information about her children she shares. 

Knight is not alone in this exposure. Many parents publicize their children without giving it a second thought.   

In regard to parents posting their children on such a huge platform, McNeill said, “Some people don’t know or understand the dangers of posting, especially when it comes to young children.”  

This brings up the question: How old should you be to be able to be on TikTok? 

The app states that you cannot be a TikTok user if you are under the age of 13, but many people find ways to disobey that rule, especially now that TikTok is becoming so popular.  Anyone who downloads the app should take safety precautions and use the app in a way that isn’t harmful to themselves or others.  

Evan Haworth, a junior at Decatur, also believes that people should be at least 13 in order to use the app. Haworth said, “[as long as you’re] old enough to understand what’s good and what’s bad, you should be able to have an account, but in his eyes, that age is 13.” 

Another Decatur junior, Cadie Littleton, thinks that the minimum age to use the app should be raised to 14. Her reason for this is simply that “some of the stuff on there just isn’t for kids.”