TikTok use explodes among kids and teens. But is it safe?

Posted at 6:02 AM, Nov 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-15 08:28:25-05

The TikTok app is taking the digital world by storm, with more than 750 million downloads in the past year. The Chinese-owned app has more than 1 billion monthly users worldwide, and 26.5 million of those are in the United States.

Most TikTok users are kids and young teens. Users on TikTok can share 15-second videos of pretty much anything. Videos can be grouped by hashtags with different topics and challenges. People can like and comment on the videos.

Joel Coen, chief digital officer at Chandler's Commit Agency, called it a self-expression app.

"It's growing significantly, and it's being used by lots and lots of kids. And a lot. The average user is on there more than average 90 minutes a day in the United States, which is pretty amazing," said Coen.

Nine-year-old Maisy in the Valley loves the app. She said she and her friends like to record and edit dance and lip-synching videos.

"It's fun and they like interacting with people and showing them, I like this too, it's cool," said Maisy.

She said she likes getting creative.

"It's kind of like editing like camera, like being a cameraman and editing and stuff," she said.

RELATED: TikTok is facing scrutiny over how it handles users' private data. But the app is still popular with teens

Coen said when it comes to keeping kids safe, parents should be aware at what their kids are looking at and what they're posting on the app. He said parents should pay attention to the comments.

"Look at the comments that are happening just to make sure that they're safe and secure and they're not interacting with anyone else that may be a predator," said Coen.

What about advertising? Coen said while it's not as widespread as it is on Instagram, some big brands -- in music, sports and clothing -- are targeting young people on the app.

"Supplanting brands for the future. Something where you're trying to make sure they're thinking of you first, the kids are, because five years from now they're not kids anymore."

Coen said right now, his clients are keeping an eye on the app to see if it's a platform they should be using for advertising. But since the demographic is so young, it may not make sense for many brands.

"While it's a trending piece right now, it's not something where I'm seeing every business and every client that I have is going have to be on top of this thing to make sure they're successful," Coen said.

Safety experts recommend your kids profiles be set to private. Parents can also change the settings so that only friends can see posted content.

Click here to learn how to set an account to private.

Other resources:

TikTok's Parent Support Center

The nonprofit Common Sense Media has a breakdown of how parents can limit or restrict activity on TikTok.