22nd February 2023

A Parent's Guide to TikTok

The streaming app TikTok has been downloaded three billion times and, as of 2020 and a massive 24% of 15-25 year olds are using the platform to create and consume videos. 

For parents this can present a challenge. Knowing what your children are up to online can be difficult and social media can contribute significantly to young peoples’ body image issues.

What is TikTok? 

The first question to ask is, what is TikTok? Fundamentally it is a social media platform that allows you to create, share and watch short clips. It is a platform designed primarily for teens to use and it is well-known for viral dance videos and celebrity cameos.

According to a 2022 Ofcom report, TikTok is the most widely used social media site for content posting.

What can you find on TikTok? 

TikTok’s most widely shared form of content is videos, however it has recently introduced a slideshow format where users can upload photos into a slideshow with music put behind it. Common types of content include dancing, singing, lip-syncing, performing comedy sketches and popular challenges. 

Some of the most popular problematic challenges to have been featured on TikTok are:

  • The silhouette challenge - users create images or videos of themselves that are edited to make them appear as a silhouette. Many users have used this trend to sexualise themselves. As filters can be reverse-engineered, it is vital that users are careful about what they are wearing behind the filter, as there are people out there who have ways to see through it.
  • Back-cracking challenge - users have been seen to crack the backs of their friend without any medical training. This can cause severe long-term nerve and spinal injury when carried out by a non-professional. 
  • Full-face wax trend - presented as a skincare routine, users cover their entire face with wax as an alternative to professional waxing or laser hair removal. With this, there is a risk of suffocation if the wax enters the airways. 
  • Before and after a nose job - popular transformation videos have recently become popular on TikTok, with users demonstrating what they looked like pre- and post-rhinoplasty. 

What is the minimum age for TikTok?

The minimum age for TikTok is 13. TikTok claims that if their moderators believe that someone under the age of 13 is using TikTok, TikTok will ban their account. TikTok also offers the Family Pairing feature that lets parents link their TikTok account to their teens’ to enable a variety of content and privacy settings. 

Why do teens love TikTok? 

They are able to express themselves through brief video clips, which helps them create and join communities centred around their interests.

Additionally, it offers some special effects that users may add to their films to give them a more distinctive look. To reach a wider audience, you might cross-post the content on other social media platforms (like Instagram).

What should parents be concerned about? 

TikTok is a relatively new app which parents may not be completely familiar with, compared to older apps such as Facebook and Instagram. Here are some things that parents may be concerned about regarding TikTok: 

  • Users can browse the app's content without making an account when they first download it, but they can't post, like, or share anything until they do.
  • All accounts are public by default, allowing anybody with access to the app to see anything your child shares. However, only followers who have been approved can message them.
  • There is a chance that strangers will be able to directly contact kids on the app due to the fact that users can like or reply to videos, follow accounts, and send messages to one another.
  • It is vital to talk to kids about what they post and with who since they could feel pressured to take risks in order to gain more followers or likes on a video.
  • Children could be viewing content that is affecting their mental health and body image. 

What to do if your child is struggling

It is important to communicate with your child about what is happening in their social media bubble. If your child is struggling with poor body image and mental health problems as a result of what they have seen on TikTok, here are some things that you can do:

  • Follow positive accounts - encourage your child to exclusively follow accounts that make them feel good about themselves and stick to their ‘Following’ feed, rather than the ‘For you’ feed, which brings in content based on an algorithm from users that your child does not necessarily follow. 
  • Encourage your child to speak to you about any issues they may have about their appearance. Ask why they feel that way, what you can do to help, and ensure that they unfollow anyone on TikTok that makes them feel negatively about themselves. 
  • Have discussions about body image; it is important for children to be aware that their thoughts and feelings are valid, and for you to promote a positive body image outlook for them to mirror. 
  • Like Facebook and Instagram, TikTok has a digital wellbeing feature that alerts users who have been on the app for more than two hours. You can also turn on ‘restricted mode’ to filter out any content that TikTok deems inappropriate for young people. 

We know how important it is to ensure that your child feels safe and has a positive experience while using the internet. While it can be difficult to keep up with trends to ensure your child’s safety.


Written by Michael Saul, a partner at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors - 

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