Musical.ly and Tik-Tok: Apps to watch out for

Back to school is an exciting time of year. As I prep for the back-to-school season, I usually take inventory of what my child already has and needs for the upcoming year.  My prep involves going through clothing to see what still fits, figuring out which school supplies can be reused and also what new items are needed for extracurricular activities. This year, I added a new category to my back-to-school to-do list that I like to call “digital housekeeping.”

I decided to add digital housekeeping to my back-to-school routine when I noticed a new app, Tik-Tok, on my daughter’s phone.  Despite having parental controls in place – which require me to approve any new apps my daughter wants to download – I hadn’t heard of this app yet nor approved of it. Upon investigating further, it turns out that Musical.ly (which I had approved) had merged with Tik-Tok and these changes came about during an app update sometime in August.

If you’re not familiar with Musical.ly, it’s a popular app (particularly among youth) that allows users to create and share short videos of themselves and others lip syncing to hit songs using pre-recorded audio. With the new updates, however, users are no longer restricted to the song and voice library, meaning they can create their own content similar to the way one would create a YouTube video.  This update raised a flag for me as it opened up the possibility of my daughter being exposed to content I might not approve of.

If your child uses Tik-Tok (Musical.ly) or is asking to get it, here are some things to watch for and tips to help ensure their experience is positive:

  1. Discuss viral challenges. A “viral challenge” is basically a popular online dare. Some challenges are good natured like the 2014 “Ice Bucket challenge”, but others can be serious and potentially life threatening, for example, in the case of the “Tide Pod challenge”.  At any given time, Tik–Tok may present a top 5 trending challenges that users can copy or build upon, and sometimes these challenges can pose risks. A recent example is the popular #InMyFeelingsChallenge where people post a video of themselves dancing to Drake’s song, “In My Feelings”. The challenge began with people simply replicating dance moves, but has since escalated into people jumping out of moving vehicles to do so, sometimes resulting in injury.
  2. Talk about content. Not all songs are created equal so talk to your kids about the kind of lyrics or music you disapprove of and what kind of content is ok. Some songs on Tik-Tok may have mature or sexual references or even slang that kids don’t understand. There are lots of songs on the radio with mature lyrics that we often don’t think twice about; however, when you see a child lip sync the lyrics it can change your own tune about the song’s appropriateness.
  3. Talk about digital permanency. It’s important to encourage your kids to think before they do, say, like and post anything online – once it’s out there, it’s permanent. A cute or entertaining  Tik-Tok video that your child posts today may very well affect their online reputation and impact them in the future. Talk to your kids about their digital footprint and the impression they’re making online.
  4. Review privacy and permission settings.  As with any social network account, you need to be aware of who can view your child’s profile and content and what permissions you have given to the app. This needs to be reinforced every time your child downloads an app and it’s a good habit to sit down with them and check these settings together on a regular basis to protect their privacy.

For more tips on helping your child navigate our digital world check out the latest TELUS Wise guide and consider booking a TELUS Wise workshop for your local parent group by contacting wise@telus.com.