The newest social media craze is at the centre of a fresh warning to parents.
TikTok – the online platform where users as young as 13 can share videos of themselves for the world to see – is plagued by predators, according to an expert in the digital landscape.
In the video above: What is TikTok?
The app launched in late 2017 and has already accrued more than 500 million active users.
Though there is an age restriction of 13 years or older, experts fear it is impossible to police.
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Yasmin London, executive director at social media and cybersecurity group ySafe says the issue is far more prolific than parents may first realise.
“Anywhere where kids have the opportunity to talk with adults, there’s always that risk,” she told 7NEWS.com.au.
She described the platform as having a bright exterior, with users lip-syncing to popular songs, but having a “dark underbelly”.
The eSafety Commissioner’s Office says TikTok is among a handful of social media platforms that have voluntarily joined a counter-cyberbullying initiative.
“TikTok is one of the social media providers voluntarily to join our cyberbullying complaints ‘tier scheme’ to remove serious cyberbullying material targeted at an Australian child under the age of 18,” a spokeswoman said.
“In the small number of cyberbullying complaints received about the TikTok app, the company has been responsive.”
However, the spokeswoman still warned that parents should be aware that any app, game or social media site that has a chat function can expose children to strangers.
When privacy isn’t private
Privacy settings are one of the major red flags TikTok has, London says.
While one of the provisions in the apps terms and conditions is the user’s sole responsibilty for their actions, the default setting on new profiles is “public”, meaning anyone can search, see their profile and make contact.
‘They have a carrot dangled in front of them.’
“Predators are accessing kids more and more through direct messages and accounts that are public,” London fears.
“A lot of the time, they’re pretending to be someone they’re not and posing as agents of influencer personalities.
“They say ‘I rep them, that could be you, send me some photos of yourself’.
“It’s one of those situations where they have a carrot dangled in front of them.”
Why not change to private?
Changing a profile to private may seem like the easy fix, regardless of the social media platform.
But London says it isn’t that simple.
“The problem is validation,” she says.
“Likes, followers and engagement deter people, especially teenagers, from turning their profile to private.
“When they’re thinking like that, security can really fall to the sidelines.”
What can parents do?
The key with any online safety issue is a conversation, London says.
“Having an understanding of the apps, how they work and how to report is important.
“There’s a lot of people and a lot of content circulating every day.
“If we see something that’s not right and we don’t report then we’re just ignoring the issue.”