How to Keep Your Kids Safe in a TikTok Challenge World
If you’re concerned about your child taking a TikTok challenge, you have every right to feel this way. Research TikTok challenge on Google, and you’ll be taken to “Girl 10 dies from dangerous online blackout challenge.” Or “Mom claims Alexa encouraged kid to try deadly TikTok challenge.” The simple act of reading these mega descriptions presents a challenge in itself. What can you do to safeguard your children in this world where being connected is a given?
Some TikTok challenges aren’t really challenges. They’re just an invitation to do something silly like dressing up like a goblin or eating a mustard-slathered slice of watermelon. At heart, they’re a chance to ham it up online.
Back in the pre-social media days, kids were satisfied with issuing a dare. Some such as I dare you to say hello to that cute guy was embarrassing. And some, like I dare you to jump off the swing in midair, weren’t safe… or smart. But they were a one-on-one exchange. They didn’t go viral with the intention of drawing others into its web.
The Changing Face of The Internet
Once upon a time, there was no such thing as social media, apps, or smartphones. There was only the internet, and its purpose was to allow government researchers to share their findings. It was the 1960s. Russia had just launched Sputnik and the American military was under pressure to catch up. Up until then, computers had been huge behemoths that took up an entire room. But with the establishment of online networks, they became desk-sized.
Flash forward to 1990 when the first search engine was born, No, it wasn’t Google. It was Archie and its inventor, a student at Montreal’s McGill University called it Archive. But somehow over the course of its short life, it was shortened to Archie. Who knows we may have been saying Archie, where can I get a kids phone that only allows phone calls, no social media? But back then, kids didn’t have phones and there was no such thing as social media
By the time they did, Archie was long gone. Google, Bing, and other search engines were where to go to research phones or whatever else you were interested in. It was also the place for those who wanted to see themselves online to access Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites
But technology, like time, marches on. That brings us to the present day when software on mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops lets users bypass search engines altogether. These computer applications (apps) have made it easy for your kids to carry Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat no matter where they go.
Now that TikTok reached 1 billion active users, surpassing Snapchat in social media popularity, chances are your kids have the TikTok app on their phone. If they don’t, chances are they want it. And so we arrive at the TikTok parent Challenge to safeguard your kids from its challenges. And rest assured, there are things you can do!
Gently Rising to the Challenge
You don’t have to have a white-knuckle grip on the wheel, but it’s up to you to steer your child in the right direction. He may think he’s capable of knowing what is and isn’t a good idea, but the truth is he isn’t. The prefrontal cortex, the portion of his brain used for rational thinking, sizing up situations, and making decisions is not yet fully developed.
This means he may make decisions and act without considering the long-term consequences. And since TikTok challenges are like walking through a minefield of questionable decisions, it’s not a place he should be. Not now. Hopefully not ever!
But, as you probably know, the worst thing you can do is tell him this. Remember when you were his age? The last thing you wanted was your parents’ advice. Chances are if they gave it, it made whatever it was they didn’t want more interesting to you.
Advice need not be I think you should, or I think you shouldn’t. It can be casual and evolving. Find out what he or she thinks about TikTok in general. Do any of her friends have the app? If so, what do they like about it? Maybe her crowd has no interest in it – yet. In this case, let sleeping dogs lie. Don’t tempt them with a dog biscuit.
Time to Take Matters into Your Own Hands
But what if this is not the case and your conversation is just the opening she was looking for? She tells you she’d like to join her friends on TikTok. Don’t implore. But do explore. Sit down with her and Google TikTok. Read over the user guidelines together
Take the “legal” approach. Explain that if she’s found guilty of transgressing them she will be found guilty. The penalty will be to forfeit her use of the app, and possibly the use of her phone. Prepare a contract for both of you to sign. This will not only make an impact on her, but it will also take the emotion out of dealing with issues that may come up.
This is also the time for you to take action. The good news is that TikTok has a minimum age limit. The bad news is that it’s 13. The good news is that the app has what it calls a “Family Pairing” feature. The bad news, as you probably ascertained from the word, pairing is you need an account yourself.
But safe is always better than sorry. Once you are on board, you can link your account to hers. This allows you to control any direct messages, set time limits for screen time, and turn off any content you choose to restrict. And just in case your kid is tech-savvy, Family Pairing will notify you if any controls are turned off or changed.
Keeping Kids Safe
What if your child wants a phone, but you don’t feel he’s old enough or responsible enough? In this case, small steps are warranted. You might want to look into a safe kid’s phone. This type of phone is smart enough to allow him to keep in touch with his friends, but not smart enough to take him online. So no social media worries for you, but it will let you contact him whenever necessary, and vice versa.
Taking these precautions won’t keep your kids off social media forever. But if you treat them as responsible soon-to-be adults, they will use it wisely when they do use it. And who knows, by the time they’re mature enough perhaps the TikTok Challenge will be but a footnote in social media history,
But if, considering the course technology has taken, you can bet something else will have taken its place. But that’s a challenge for them to figure out with their open kids.
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