TikTok: Everything You Need to Know

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Real People. Real Videos.

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What is the purpose of the app/intended audience?

TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Our mission is to inspire creativity and inspire joy. – TikTok.com

TikTok is a free social media app that allows you to create, watch and share videos on a mobile device.  It used to be known as musical.ly in the United States but was re-branded in August 2018 as TikTok.  The app focuses on sharing user-generated videos, often lip-synching to popular songs, user created audio clips, dances or just funny meme-related content.  The videos are grouped by hashtags which usually correspond to challenges or memes.

TikTok is intended for users age 13 and over and is given a strict 12+ age app store rating due to mature content.  Any user under 18 needs parental approval, although there is a separate section of the app for kids to access only clean, curated videos.

How to use the app

  1. Using a mobile device, download the app (Android or iOs) and create an account.  Click here for my experience creating an account for @callie.the.golden.pup
    • You can make the account private to approve or deny followers
  2. Enjoy other account videos on the #foryoupage #fyp. After liking or commenting on videos and following different accounts, TikTok will create a feed of videos that you might like on your #foryoupage.  This page is personalized to every TikTok user based on how you use and interact with the app. There is also a separate feed for users that you follow.
  3. Create and edit your own videos. This article gives a great step-by-step guide to using the TikTok video creation tool.
  4. Duet with other users – your video will be placed beside another user video (that you choose) to be watched simultaneously
  5. Participate in a challenge – on the TikTok Discover page, you can view trending accounts and videos with current #challenges.  Users can create a video following a similar format as other videos in the challenge and share the hashtag on their post. Here is an example of the #papertowelchallenge that @callie.the.golden.pup participated in (and it currently has over 15k views!)

Terms of Use, Privacy, Safety and Data Collection

TikTok’s mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy. We are building a global community where users can create and share authentically, discover the world around them, and connect with others across the globe. We are also committed to keeping this community safe. Our Community Guidelines reflect our values and define a common code of conduct on our platform. These guidelines also allow our community to help maintain a safe shared space. – Community Guidelines, TikTok.com

TikTok clearly outlines the type of material permitted on their platform and commits to removing content that violates these guidelines or even banning/suspending accounts.  These types of activities include:

  • Dangerous individuals and organizations (terrorism, hate groups, trafficking)
  • Illegal activities (criminal activities, sale/use of weapons, drugs, frauds and scams)
  • Violent and graphic content (human and animals)
  • Suicide, self-harm and dangerous acts
  • Hate speech (attacks on protected group, slurs, hateful ideology)
  • Harassment and bullying
  • Adult nudity and sexual activities (including pornography)
  • Minor safety (underage delinquent behaviour, child abuse, grooming, sexualization of minors, nudity and exploitation of minors)
  • Integrity and authenticity (spam, impersonation, misleading information, intellectual property)

Terms of Service

Intellectual Property RightsTikTok does not allow posting, sharing, or sending any content that violates or infringes someone else’s copyrights, trademarks or other intellectual property rights.

TikTok Content“NO RIGHTS ARE LICENSED WITH RESPECT TO SOUND RECORDINGS AND THE MUSICAL WORKS EMBODIED THEREIN THAT ARE MADE AVAILABLE FROM OR THROUGH THE SERVICE.”

User-Generated Content – In a very lengthy description, the short version is that by submitting user-generated content, you grant TikTok the rights to the content. Anything you post on TikTok is then owned by TikTok, and it can be used however the company wants.

Privacy Policy/Information Collected

Types of data collected and used:

  • Data collected from the user (profile information like username, date of birth, e-mail address and/or phone number).
  • User content and behavioural information (example – the language you choose, types of challenges you participate in).
  • Information from third parties (business partners like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google; advertising networks).
  • Technical data (type of device, IP address, time zone, browsing history of content on TikTok).
  • Location data (you have the option of turning off location data in your mobile settings).
  • Find others and invite friends (you can choose to connect your phone contact list or Facebook friend list).
  • Cookies (first and third party cookies) – you can delete cookies, but they are used to improve your experience on the app
    • essential cookies (for secure login)
    • performance cookies (for analytics – TikTok uses Google Analytics)
    • functionality cookies (to remember settings you have applied)
    • targeting or advertising (marketing and analytics)
    • social media (to link to other social media accounts)
    • use of ‘pixels’ (Facebook Pixels)

TikTok has been criticized by the media for safety and security flaws (particularly in the United States), often linked to the Chinese app’s parent company, ByteDance:

Potential Educational Value

Using the TikTok app in the classroom has many implications and I would not recommend it due to the significant privacy and safety concerns.  That being said, it is an excellent way to discuss digital citizenship and online safety with our students, as many students either use the app or are aware of the viral capabilities of the app.  IMG_3155There is the #edutok  hashtag that shares informational and sometimes educational videos (my niece told me she learned how to do a math problem on TikTok!) and many organizations use the app to spread accurate information.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, any video with the hashtag #corona, #coronavirus, #covid19, #covid, etc has a disclaimer on the bottom of the video to encourage users to seek out accurate information.  For example, the World Health Organization created an account to share timely information relating to the pandemic.  TikTok also has a “TikTok for Good” section to “inspire and encourage a new generation to have a positive impact on the planet and those around them”.

Teachers could also use viral TikTok challenges to engage students without actually using the app (for example, the Grade 5 theme for Saskatchewan Arts Education is ‘Pop Culture’ – so we learned the Renegade Dance as class!).

Overall

TikTok is extremely popular among teens and tweens, with a surge in the Millennial demographic during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Although there are parent controls and family safety mode to help use TikTok safely with kids, Common Sense Media explains that this often takes the fun out of the app for kids.  As a result, many users will provide fake birth date information to gain full access of the app.  This leads to mature content (be aware of sexualized content on TikTok).

Common Sense Media also created the “Parents’ Ultimate Guide to TikTok”, and you can find many similar guides produced by news outlets and organizations with a simple Google search (“parents’ guide to tiktok“).  The general consensus is that you need to monitor your child’s app use and be aware of the content they are consuming and creating.

For the 18+ crowd, it is another app to add to your social media list to follow entertaining and (maybe) sometimes informative content.  Participating in challenges and creating content is a great way to pass the time during the social distancing measures of COVID-19, and if anything, you will find something to laugh at while scrolling through the app.  Just be aware of the type of information you provide when you sign up and make a decision about how ‘connected’ you want to be with the app.

Pros

  • Free, fun, creative video creation and social media app that allows for hours of entertainment.
  • Privacy and safety options for families to protect the content children consume.
  • Global community of users participating in challenges creates a very ‘social’ atmosphere.
  • There are many editing tools directly within the app, so you do not require any additional equipment to make videos.

Cons

  • Privacy concerns with how data is collected and used.
  • Users waive any moral rights to user generated content.
  • It can be addicting! (My first introduction to TikTok sent me down a rabbit hole of videos for many hours). The short videos play automatically with a scroll style feed.
  • Users can provide fake birth date information, so children can use the app freely, including commenting or sending private messages and watching mature content.
  • Inappropriate content (sexualized dances, mature song lyrics, harassment tool).
  • Some users strive to become “TikTok Famous” like Charli D’Amelio, but for what purpose?

In my experience, TikTok is a fun app to scroll through meme-like material and create pointless videos.  I was recently caught up in the hype when my #papertowelchallenge @callie.the.golden.pup video (from earlier in this post) received constant likes, comments, views and more followers to the account each day (and continues to a month after posting the video!). I admit, I am still excited to open the app to see how many notifications I have received (usually around 100) each day and I am perplexed with why this video is receiving so much attention. From this experience, I understand the addicting nature of the app and why young people continue to post videos – always searching for that “one video” that will be a hit.  I think using and understanding the app has allowed me to provide relevant educational content regarding social media with my students and help shape the way I teach digital citizenship.  Go where the people are! The people are on TikTok.

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

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