TikTok has been revolutionizing how kids use social media apps since its boom in 2017. Its short-form music, dance, and lip-sync videos quickly attracted all sorts of people. Today it’s one of the most used social media apps worldwide among children. And TikTok predators are taking advantage.
The New York Times estimates a third of TikTok users from the U.S. might be 14 years or less. Also, a survey by Forrester revealed users ages 12-17 were more eager to use TikTok than Instagram. These stats aren’t that surprising because TikTok targets the Gen Z youth.
However, that makes it a strategic place for child predators. The platform’s been struggling with child safety for years. But you can protect your kids by learning how TikTok predators interact online. Once you understand their methods, it’s far easier to prevent an unwanted situation.
Why TikTok Predators Are a Concern for Parents
Kids are unlikely to be aware they are interacting with a predator. It’s not always in their instincts to detect predatory situations and report them to parents. And TikTok is a hot spot for online predators. As a result, children are at risk of sexual abuse or other predatory act.
Further, TikTok is one of the most addictive apps, making kids an even easier target. Several studies also reveal the platform’s flaws regarding protecting children. And they are all cause for concern.
One investigation by the BBC exposed some upsetting findings:
- TikTok is failing to ban predators even after users report encounters. Sadly, that means many will keep harassing children, refining their methods.
- Not every reported message gets removed by the platform.
- In some instances, children received threatening and violent messages.
- TikTok isn’t fully capable of verifying children’s ages. The investigation showed several kids using the platform were under 13.
A Thorn & Benenson Strategy Group research about minors’ behavior on the platform revealed:
- Most underage users who reported or blocked someone were re-contacted by that person.
- Only 6 percent of 9 to 17-year-old users talked to a trusted adult after TikTok child predators sent nudes.
- 23 percent of 9 to 17-year-old kids feel there’s no category to report adults soliciting nudes.
How TikTok Predators Can Interact with Kids
Predators typically take advantage of TikTok’s features to interact with children. Over time, the interactions become sexual. These pedophiles rely on deceit, mind games, and threats to achieve their goals.
Here are some of the tactics child predators on TikTok use.
The “For You” Feed: Gaming TikTok’s Algorithm
TikTok has a system for recommending the content you like called the “For You” feed. The content that appears on this feed matches user interests. For example, posts, likes, comments, etc., are all factored in to determine what appears.
Unfortunately, many online predators focus on the “For You” feed to find new victims. Some tactics used against children include adulation, bribery, and blackmail. Also, child predators are typically savvy enough to game the algorithm. That’s essentially the computing system recommending content on the For You feed.
For example, a TikTok predator may use the feed to identify victims. Similarly, they may film specific kinds of trending content to attract children. So the more exposure your kids have on TikTok, the more they are a target.
Child predators on TikTok also use adulation skills to attract children. Sweet talk tends to work better on people with low self-esteem. And that’s a common condition in teenage boys and girls.
Bribery and Blackmail
Two common tactics predators use are bribery and blackmail to make kids comply. The BBC report cited earlier shows a screenshot of what appears to be bribery in action.
Predators also blackmail children to receive explicit videos and photos. Conversations usually start innocent and gentle before escalating over time. These abusers wait for the child to break some rules before uttering threats. Children often feel they have no option but to accept the predators’ demands.
How TikTok Predators Can Harm Kids
Child molesters on TikTok take advantage of young and less intuitive minds. The abuse often leads to distress and other issues that can scar the child for life. Many children experience mental and physical effects.
The dangers of TikTok include sexual abuse, cyberbullying, and mental health issues. There are also privacy concerns regarding user data on the platform. Some of the harm TikTok predators can bring to kids are as follows.
Predators use cyberbullying to force children into participating in sexual activities. It’s an effective tool that attacks self-esteem and can help manifest fears in kids.
A predator may use various cyberbullying tactics, such as:
- Threaten to leak the child’s sensitive pictures or videos
- Emotionally shame their bodies in private or public comments as punishment for non-compliance
- Share aggressive and threatening comments towards the child and their family
- Spread false rumors that can ruin the child’s reputation
Risky Physical Encounters
TikTok predators lure children out of their virtual relationships to have physical encounters. This is a dangerous scheme that usually ends with trauma for kids.
The experience can have other consequences besides sexual abuse for a child, including:
- Unwanted pregnancies
- Sexually transmitted diseases and infections
- Drugs and alcohol abuse
Mental Health Issues
A child’s mental health is crucial to their safe development. The way TikTok predators interact with kids can lead to mental health issues like:
- Eating disorders
- Psychosomatic illnesses
Some advertisers do just about anything that’s allowed on social networks. As long as they can reach the target audience, bending online privacy rules is acceptable. But that’s not the only privacy concern. TikTok child predators can also convince children to send personal information. That means you and your kids may be vulnerable if a data breach occurs on TikTok.
Additional privacy concerns include:
- Predators may target a child and their parents for something ominous
- Children can receive online advertising that’s inappropriate from predators
- A predator can steal both the child and caregiver’s personal information through hacking
A child’s mind is just not mature enough to properly navigate today’s social networks. An encounter with a TikTok predator can also lead to other traumas or problems, such as:
- Causing the child to believe receiving and sending sexual content is appropriate behavior
- The child may establish phobias
- Children may adopt behaviors from the predator
- Predators may threaten children to force compliance
How to Prevent Kids from Interacting with TikTok Predators?
TikTok is not safe from predators. The platform continues to fall short in banning predators. Unfortunately, that also means many will continue to victimize children. So prevention is the most important thing you can do for your kids.
Some preventative measures you can take include:
Having Honest Communications
Informing your children about the possible dangers is an important action step. Talk to your kids, give them internet safety tips, and explain what to do in specific scenarios. Also, consider sharing basic cybersecurity knowledge and the methods TikTok predators may use.
Limit TikTok Usage
The fact TikTok has child predators lurking around is enough reason to set usage limits. However, that alone won’t prevent children from interacting with predators on TikTok. Parents also need to be attentive to the kind of content kids are watching.
Apply TikTok App Restrictions
By now, you probably know TikTok isn’t the safest social media app out there. Still, the platform has some safety features that can protect children. Specifically, you can control how long your child uses TikTok daily. You can also limit certain content types and restrict messages. First, open ‘Settings and Privacy.’ Then select ‘Digital Wellbeing’ to access control options from the app.
Install A Parental Control App to Monitor TikTok Usage
It’s easy to see that TikTok has significant flaws in child safety. But other social platforms have the same problem. That’s why many parents use parental control apps, such as MMGuardian. These apps ensure integral, safe, and efficient parental control.
For example, you can restrict calls, SMS, usage, and receive alerts with MMGuardian. The app also has a specific feature for TikTok. It can monitor text message exchanges on TikTok for Android phones. You’ll receive a Safety Alert whenever something appears predatory.
Predators use various methods to build relationships with children. They may use flattery, bribery, and blackmail, among other tactics, to make kids comply. Thankfully, you can take proper steps to protect your kids. Maintaining communication, using safety features, and installing parental control are effective measures. Parents mustn’t ignore the concerns and protect their kids.