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Thank goodness TikTok finally has parental controls

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This Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 photo shows the icon for TikTok taken in New York.

Associated Press

With most of the world in quarantine, it seems natural we would be spending more time on social media. We rely heavily on technology to keep in touch, and no other generation is better equipped than Generation Z.

Indeed, App Annie reports that across the globe, time spent in apps went up 20% in this year’s first quarter over last year’s. We are needing to connect now more than ever, and online is often the only way we can do it safely these days.

I spent some time last week judging my local high school’s drill team tryouts. Normally this would take place in the gym, with three or four dancers auditioning at a time. This year the girls had to record themselves performing the required technique and dance combination and then submit it online.

I was pleasantly surprised by the submissions. Each of the girls had to use a makeshift dance floor cleared out of random spaces in their homes. We saw dancers in basements, in garages and even on front lawns.

Even so, they couldn’t hide their proficiency when it came to technology.

Some dancers had elaborate graphics imbedded in their audition videos and others even included blooper reels at the end. They didn’t seem nervous or flustered. They looked straight into their cameras and performed like pros.

I thought back on my awkward VHS-recorded tryout in eighth grade when I missed cheerleader auditions because of a funeral. The difference between what I threw together and what these dancers created was stark.

I realized that if ever a generation of school-aged kids were forced to be in quarantine and communicate with friends and classmates online, this was the perfect one to do so. These children born between the mid-90’s and 2010 were raised on the internet and social media. They’ve had phones in hand from young ages and are skillful at navigating all kinds of technology. Zoom math classes? Easy. Virtual strength training? No problem. Church youth groups holding video chats to learn about spring planting? Done.

Boomers — and even some from Generation X — may be struggling with the lack of face-to-face contact and all the tech required to continue a somewhat normal life. But at the same time, millennials and those from Generation Z are coping like champs. 

All those worries parents had that the younger generations were losing communication skills have gone out the window. In today’s climate, I’m thrilled my middle-schooler has no problem getting his fill of community by texting friends, checking out Instagram and having Zoom classroom meetings a few times each week.

But as he is spending more time online than usual, he is also asking for more access. TikTok is one app I have not been comfortable with for teenagers because it has lacked any sort of parental controls. Any 14-year-old could easily scroll through songs or other people’s content and hear all sorts of really foul language, among other questionable themes. I felt it was too risky for kids.

But, according to my son, I’m the only parent in the world who doesn’t allow their kids to have TikTok. Sound familiar? Well this time, he may have an argument. For the first quarter of 2020, TikTok was number one for downloads worldwide, according to Social Media Today.

So, imagine my delight when TikTok announced it was finally allowing parents to have some say over what their child would see and hear on the app. Family Pairing gives parents the ability to link their TikTok account to their teen’s. Moms and dads can then control how long kids can spend on the app, restrict content that may not be appropriate and decide who can send private messages to their kid’s account.

Plus, starting April 30, TikTok will completely disable all direct messages for registered accounts under the age of 16.


These features launched in the U.K a couple of months ago, but will roll out in the U.S. over the coming weeks.

“More than ever, families are turning to internet platforms like TikTok to stay entertained, informed, and connected,” wrote TikTok’s Jeff Collins in the announcement. “That was, of course, happening before COVID-19, but it has only accelerated since the outbreak began and social distancing brought families closer together.”

He goes on to say they made these changes with families in mind.

This family, for one, is grateful.