Oliver Hum / Edge Columnist
As of early 2020, video-sharing social networking service called TikTok added a family pairing mode which allowed parents to restrict the content their child sees. Parents could limit what videos their child watched, restrict private chat use, and limit time spent on the app. The feature was then updated to prevent comments on posts, remove the search function for content, and limit who can see which videos their child has liked.
Before the pairing mode existed, there were many problems on the app, most of them involving some forms of pedophilia.
A BBC Panorama journalist posed as a 14-year-old girl for an investigation regarding predators on the app. TikTok moderators failed to ban a user that was reported for sending sexual messages to the account. When this happened, it raised concern about user safety on the app which led TikTok to introduce the family pairing setting.
Some children may not approve of these settings and would want to unpair their device from the parent’s and TikTok came up with a great solution for this. When a child tries to unpair the device, it sends an alert to the adult and gives them 48 hours to restore the link before the child can turn off restrictions. “Child safety experts support this decision as it allows a balance to be struck between safety and surveillance. The theory is that if teenagers view safety measures as being excessive, it might make them less likely to ask for help if they get into trouble.” says BBC.
These new safety settings are a great first step. However, there are many things that TikTok could add to eliminate predators on the app entirely.
First, have more moderators review reported content/messages. During the experiment, TikTok moderators failed to ban the user that was reported for sending sexual messages. If TikTok used the parental pairing setting in addition to more moderators, users can have the safest experience on the app.
Also, according to NSPCC’s Andy Burrows, “While this is a useful tool for other platforms to follow, it’s clear that the only way to make social networks safer across the board is through regulation that holds tech firms accountable for failing to protect children.” This is a very good point because TikTok is not responsible for any incidents that happen on the app meaning they have no reason to try and prevent any incidents.
If TikTok was held accountable for every bad incident on the app, they would be doing everything they can to make sure the app is as safe as possible.
By looking at the new family pairing settings implemented, we can see that TikTok is trying to make the app as safe as possible. However, there are still things that can be done to prevent incidents. One can only imagine what TikTok will come up with in the future.