If you’ve ever handed a smartphone or tablet to a toddler who just wouldn’t quiet down or found yourself trying to regulate the amount of time your children spend online, you know that the digital lives of children are in equal measure a profound source of promise and peril.
While questions about screen time are a perennial favorite topic when it comes to children, and in no way trivial, there are some much darker issues that merit discussion, but seldom make it through the din that makes the digital world such a treacherous place for young people.
TikTok is fun and well trafficked. An addictive, short-form video sharing app, TikTok recently eclipsed Google as the most visited destination online.
When it comes to children, TikTok’s record is mixed. The Chinese-owned company was hit with a $5.7 million fine in 2019 for violating the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, which protects the personally identifiable data of children under 13 years of age. TikTok subsequently implemented safeguards to keep children’s data off their servers, but there’s still room for improvement.
There are psychological consequences as well. A recent study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found an increased risk of depression and anxiety.
What you can do about it: Talk to your children about the importance of being good stewards of their data. Help them set the tightest privacy settings they are willing to accept (often tighter settings limit the fun you can have on site), and keep that conversation about privacy and entertainment ongoing. The more you talk about the issues we face online, the better chance we all have of improving our situation.
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