TikTok: What You Need to Know

Whether you’re a concerned parent tuning into the nightly news or an employer keeping up with today’s events online, you may have most likely heard of the TikTok app.  Heard of it, yes, but to gain a better understanding of TikTok, why it is often making (negative) news headlines lately, and how we can utilize it most safely…read on.

According to TikTok’s website, TikTok is the “leading destination for short-form mobile video with a mission to inspire creativity and bring joy”. The TikTok app allows users to make and share 15-30 second videos. Most videos center around entertainment but they can be created on any topic. TikTok has been downloaded more than 2 billion times globally and is most popular with teenagers and young adults under the age of 24.

Like Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms, TikTok has been the subject of data privacy and security concerns with its ability to expose sensitive information. These concerns are increasingly heightened with TikTok, due to the app being owned by the Chinese parent company, ByteDance.

TikTok can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play, and once downloaded and installed, TikTok users will be prompted to sign up using a phone number, email address, or pre-existing social media account. Once the account has been created, you have the option to update your username and bio, add a profile photo, and add other personal information. From there you’ll be able to search popular creators, categories, or hashtags to find videos. TikTok categories grabbing the most views include Pranks, DIY, Challenges and Cringe.

Like the other social media giants, TikTok collects a lot of user information, without the user being very aware. To start, TikTok receives names, ages, phone numbers, phone contacts, payment information and emails when people sign up for the service. The app also gathers locations and upon acceptance of the Tik Tok privacy agreement, users grant access to their microphone and camera, including capturing close-ups of your face. TikTok also incorporates technology that encrypts other data collection activities to hide functionality from 3rd party researchers.

Are there red flags going up in anyone else’s mind in reference to Tiktok?

Many TikTok news headlines center around how much of this collected data is being distributed and shared with the Chinese government, but the additional dangers of TikTok—such as videos gone horribly wrong and even fatal filming’s are unfortunately increasing in volume and popularity as well.

While our (safety) recommendation would be to not install TikTok at all, if you decide to go ahead and install TikTok, here are a few security tips:

  • Make Your Account Private:
    • Go to your profile page
    • Tap three dots in the right-hand corner and select “Privacy and Settings”
    • Select the “Privacy and Safety” option and toggle “Private Account” on


  • Proactively Control Post Comments:
    • Within “Privacy and Safety”, tap “Who can send me comments”
    • Choose “Friends” to limit comments to people you know. You can also turn off comments on individual videos by going to the menu button on the video and selecting “Comments off”


  • Manage *Duets:
    • Within “Privacy and Safety”, tap “Who can duet with me”
    • Choose from the various options – “Everyone”, “Friends” or “Off”
    • * Duets allow you to post your video side-by-side with a video from another creator on TikTok. A Duet contains two videos in a split screen that play at the same time.


  • Configure Direct Messages Authorization:
    • Within “Privacy and Safety”, tap “Who can send messages to me”
    • Choose from the various options – “Everyone”, “Friends” or “Off”


  • Block or Report Users or Comments:
    • To block or report a user, go to their profile, and tap the three dots at the top of the screen. From the options, select “block” or” report”. On the next screen, choose why you are reporting them.
    • To report a comment, tap the comment and from the options that appear, tap “report” and follow the instructions.
    • To report a video, go to the video and tap the “share” icon. On the next screen, tap “report” and follow the instructions.


  • For Parents:
    • Configure the *Digital Wellbeing setting:
      • Select “Digital Wellbeing” under the app settings
      • Tap “Turn On”
      • Set a passcode
      • Toggle “Screen Time Management” and “Restricted Mode” to turn these on.

        * Digital Wellbeing places time limits or can give heads-up reminders to take breaks, as well as block potentially inappropriate content.


      • Enable the *Family Pairing:
        • Tap Profile at the bottom.
        • Tap the Menu button at the top.
        • Tap Settings and privacy, then tap Family Pairing.
        • Tap Parent or Teen.
        • Follow the steps in the app to link accounts.

        * Family Pairing allows parents to link their account with their child’s to control their settings remotely. For example, parents can turn on Restricted mode and screen time limits and disable direct messages right from their own phone.

Watching the news, or watching your recommendeds, TikTok isn’t going anywhere (yet), but we can arm ourselves with the appropriate app-settings and common-sense mind-settings to experience TikTok wisely.

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