Ever heard of TikTok? If not, you better get caught up with the times because it’s currently the number one free app Apple's App Store. The social networking app allows users to post short-form videos and has been around for a couple of years. The app did get new life, though, after merging with popular lip sync app musical.ly. The same Chinese conglomerate, ByteDance, owns both apps and when it merged them, it transferred accounts on musical.ly over to TikTok. But there are new users too. Digital Music News reports TikTok had 25 percent growth in downloads last month in the U.S. alone.
The app is a lot of fun, with some of the more original face filters I’ve ever seen. The videos — never more than 60 seconds — usually feature lip syncing, dancing or reenacting old Vine videos. Users can change the speed of videos they create, video duets with other users and even set a timer to stop recording at a certain point. The music library is gigantic, and users will likely find any soundtrack they want to put in their video.
But parents should know there is no shortage of music with explicit lyrics and no way to filter it out. And the worst part is that there is no warning that the foul language is part of any given song. So while scrolling through to find a song you want to use, if you aren’t familiar with every piece of music, the language can catch you by surprise.
The app is intended for users ages 13 and up, and the developers are clear about that. Under the Privacy and Safety section for parents, it says, “Please do not allow a child under the age of 13 to use the app.”
TikTok does give many options for safety, including making an account private and deciding who can send you messages and comment on your posts. But know that the profile information including photo, username and bio will be visible to everyone.
One of my favorite features is an option to enable Digital Wellbeing. Parents can turn on Screen Time Management that limits users to two hours per day on the app. This restriction is set with a passcode and kids can’t bypass it unless mom or dad gives permission (remember parents have this option for all apps through the FamilyLink app or iOS).
There’s also a restricted mode that can limit the appearance of content that may not be appropriate for all ages. This does not get rid of explicit lyrics in music, though.
Facebook launched a similar video app called Lasso last week, and you’ll need an active Facebook or Instagram account to get it. Lasso works the same way as TikTok, but without as many cool filters. One big heads up for parents is that every video on Lasso is automatically set to public, with no way to change the privacy setting. Users are able to block people and can delete a video they posted at any time. This app also has music with foul language, but at least gives you the courtesy of placing the little ‘E’ for explicit next to those songs.
Lasso gives users the option of posting their videos to their Facebook stories, and the ability to post to Instagram would be the obvious next step. Pew Research Center’s latest survey shows only about half of all teenagers even use Facebook anymore. This just may be the social media network’s key to getting back into teens' good graces.