By Cally Logan, Crosswalk.com
Of all the apps in recent years, perhaps the one that has received the most debate on whether it should be used is TikTok. TikTok not only has an addictive, habit-forming quality but is also an app where most anything goes. This begs the question for parents, should you let your kid use TikTok?
TikTok finds its roots overseas in China. It is the product of ByteDance and has seen a few rebranding facelifts since its creation in 2016. The primary design and intent was to create a platform in which users could create and share short videos and content to share publicly. Much of the controversy and issue with the app comes from the fact that it is a foreign-owned app and, therefore, could potentially threaten United States security and personal privacy concerns. These are valid concerns, but just with any app that one downloads on a device, it is important to read the terms and agreements; although the first instinct is to skip over them, it is better to know about what they are actually accessing on your device and what you are saying, "yes" to. This is especially important when it comes to young kids, as the protection and privacy of youth need to be a top priority. That leads us to ask the question, is it safe for kids to be on TikTok, even at a watch-only level?
Keeping Kids Safe
Keeping children safe matters more than ever in a world where so much can be accessed online. Geotracking, identifying key places and elements, and even other forms of internet use can instantly reveal where a child is or where they frequently go, making them easy targets. This is not to stir anxiety or fear but rather to be a reminder that it is imperative to use wisdom in how often, how much, and in what fashion your kids are online. This is also where knowing how a specific app works is very important for parents before allowing their child to download an app. TikTok allows for direct messages, comments, and views from either a completely public option or a private account option where the user can still comment on public videos or receive replies on such videos. This poses an issue in that a child could comment on a public video and have a conversation with other users commenting back to their original comment. Depending on the person on the other side, this can be innocent or begin a catfish. A Catfish is someone who has an account where they are pretending to be someone they are not. If a catfish can lure an adult, anyone can be, so it is something to consider and know if and when a child is commenting or liking public videos. Keeping kids safe needs to be the first and primary factor in the decision process.
Limiting Screen Time
Limiting screen time is another element to consider in allowing your child to download TikTok. Short videos, especially the ones the algorithm TikTok uses, are designed to give a shot of dopamine in the brain, training the mind to crave and desire more. Our brain's hunger for dopamine, so little shots such as TikTok videos can quickly become like M&Ms; one is not enough. This being the case, it is extremely easy to scroll through videos and end up in a rabbit hole of videos for hours on end. Little minds need more than a screen to help feed their brains, and too much time on screens can detrimentally harm their eyesight, mood, and clarity of mind. Most smartphones or tablets can set certain time limits for apps, so if you allow your child on TikTok, consider thoughtfully setting a time allowance so they don't become so consumed in a virtual world, they miss out on the beauty of the world around them. Your child only gets one childhood, and their time is very much determined by what you as a parent allow or withhold from them, so ask God for discernment in this area as well.
Discernment is a great gift from God, and it is something that you can help foster and cultivate in your child at an early age by helping them grow that muscle. Part of your role as a parent should include connecting with God for His wisdom in how to raise the child He entrusted you to raise. God made your child, and therefore, He knows exactly what and when they need something or how to go about introducing aspects of the world they will learn in the correct timing. Whether a child learns it on TikTok or on the school bus, one way or another, they will one day be faced with the ways of the world, both good and bad. Partnering in prayer with God as to how to approach topics and the knowledge of things is key so that they will have the tools needed to avoid a lot of pain, harm, or hurt. Helping them by allowing them to be a part of the conversation can also help them to feel they have a voice with you, and the rules set forth will not seem like a bad thing but rather a fair agreement made. This is not to say you might have to put your foot down in areas, but including them in the conversation will help them feel valued. Also, help them grow in discernment by teaching them in action what is in accordance with God's heart, what is not, and why God's ways are the best. Even sharing successes and failures from your own story can help in this. Discernment is one of the greatest qualities you can help instill in your child from an early age so that, hopefully, they will take it further later.
Where Do We Go From Here?
There is no clear definitive line of a blanket answer for whether your child should or should not be permitted on TikTok. Paul shares wisely in 1 Corinthians 10:23 that "Everything is permissible," but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible," but not everything builds up." What this means in application is that some children are mature enough not to cross the lines set forth for their protection that you agree to, or they will not cave into the temptation to look at things they should not on the internet. On the flip side, some children having access to an app with so much content - both good and bad can prove too much, be it age, maturity, or where they are in their journey toward adulthood, and it would be wiser to hold back the app. Ask the Lord to help you to know what His desire is for you as a parent to raise up the child He entrusted you with in this area, and know He can be trusted with the answer you are given. Do your research and follow what God is placing upon your heart to carry out.
Cally Logan is an author and US History teacher from Richmond, Virginia. In her free time, she enjoys mentoring youth and spending time in nature. She is the author of Hang on in There, Girl! and Dear Future Husband: A Love Letter Journey While Waiting for God's Best. Check her out on Instagram and Twitter, @CallyLogan and TikTok Cally_Logan.