The immensely popular social media app has already been downloaded more than 800 million times but experts warn parents to be wary.
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TikTok has quickly become a social media sensation, but cybersecurity experts have warned that it is a breeding ground for pedophiles, making it unsafe for children. As a warning to parents, 'Cyber Cop' Susan McLean told Daily Mail that the app was not safe for kids because of the risk factors like grooming, bullying, and invasion of privacy.
tiktok is full of pedophiles & nothing is being done about it what’s up with that 😳— Sam Collins (@itsSamCollins) August 13, 2019
The app, that has become more popular than Snapchat, requires users to be only 13 years old to sign up, and who can be contacted by anyone unless their profile is private. Even after making the profile private, anyone can request to look at users' pictures and videos, sometimes by pretending to be another child. McLean said, "TikTok is not a safe app and there are many concerns, not the least bullying and grooming by predators. Any app that allows communication can be used by predators."
and its sad that they get away with it cuz theyre "cute e-boys" too— yuli #⃝ (@shadesofbIack) August 13, 2019
The cybersecurity expert also warned that TikTok had previously failed to remove suspicious accounts even after receiving warnings that those accounts were run by groomers. She said, "TikTok does not have the same safety sessions as some of the more well-known apps and routinely do not remove accounts that have been flagged as potentially a predator. Pedophiles like to watch kids sing and dance so they can take the videos and share them. The data gathering is a huge concern and if the government is worried then it is not a place for kids."
It's alarming how much more access to children pedophiles have with social media. Nothing is being done about that but censorship for having the wrong thought? For sure.— Mars (@_Mars_F) August 13, 2019
McLean issued this warning after an investigation in the UK found children as young as eight being groomed on TikTok. It was also found that kids were often bombarded by explicit messages on the app. On their website, TikTok explained that parents can set their children's profile to private, but the app also admitted that "even with a private account, profile information – including profile photo, username, and bio – will be visible to all users."
Parents are being asked to counsel their children not to reveal personal information such as age, address, or phone number on their profile and the kids' helpline also revealed there was scope for bullying on the app, with counselors also receiving concerning reports. In one incident, a child discovered a girl at school who had posted a video on the platform saying she should "die in a hole."
Apart from that, there are also numerous concerns regarding privacy and data used by the app. McLean explained, "Both the US and Australian governments have told serving soldiers that they are not to use it because of security fears. TikTok also received the biggest fine in US history for gathering data on kids and selling it." The app also lets its users create and share short singing and dancing videos, with more than 500 million active users and now worth more than $110 billion.
Very worrying to read that paedophiles are now using TikTok to procure victims. The Daily Mail has described it as a ‘magnet for paedophiles’ https://t.co/11nGg0zhiv— Roger Tichborne/RogT #CTID 🏴☠️🇬🇧 (@Barneteye) January 22, 2020
A spokesperson of TikTok said, "TikTok is an app for users age 13 and over, and we’ve given the app a 12+ App Store rating so parents can simply block it from their child’s phone using device-based controls. In our Safety Centre, we offer a library of educational resources for teens and their families, including safety educational videos and a safety blog series. As one of many apps with teenage users, we encourage parents to monitor their teenager’s accounts, review and adjust their privacy settings, help them report any inappropriate behavior, and have an open dialogue with their teenagers about how to be responsible and safe in all online activity."