TikTok Guide for Parents (2023): What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

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February 22, 2023

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This TikTok course will help parents, students, & educators learn

  • Why kids like TikTok so much
  • Key words and phrases students use when talking about TikTok
  • How to have fun, get a laugh, learn a new tip or trick on TikTok--but set limits and practice sticking to them
  • How a hidden feature of TikTok might expose all of your videos to strangers, even if you think only your friends see them

Become a member or log in to view this whole video lesson

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Superintendents, Directors and Principals: Request a partnership on this page to unlock our resources for your whole community.

Quotation marks

This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!


Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

Quotation marks

Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.


Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

Quotation marks

This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.


Irene C.

Educator Webinar Attendee

Table of Contents

TikTok is a social media app that allows users to watch and create videos that are 15 seconds to 3 minutes long. Formerly known as Musicl.ly, TikTok is wildly popular among US teens and young adults who enjoy watching and creating their own videos. The built-in video creation tools make it easy for users to add filters, songs, effects, and sound bites without any additional apps. Students go to TikTok for comic relief, an escape from stress, to learn life “hacks”, to connect with influencers/celebrities, to learn trending tips and tricks, to practice video editing skills, and to stay current with world happenings

Students: Download this pdf to follow along with the videos

Top Concerns about TikTok

  • TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance and there have been concerns about how secure personal information is on the app
  • TikTok may recommend “harmful” content to young users, although TikTok does make an effort to redirect searches for subjects such as self-harm or eating disorders to suicide and crisis phone lines (Source: Good Morning America)
  • The app boasts an “endless stream” of content for users to watch, which can promote addictive behavior in students
  • Social media challenges encourage students to create their own videos and sometimes include dangerous acts or acts that can get students into legal trouble

What students wish parents knew about TikTok? (video)

(This student-friendly video can be shown in the classroom or at home)

What do students want parents to know about TikTok?

  • It's a great way to express yourself creatively
  • TikTok moderators are strict about what videos they allow to stay on the app
  • TikTok connects you with your friends and gives you ideas for creative things you can try at home
  • TikTok moderators have changed what videos students can see on their "for you page" if they find they are inappropriate

Why TikTok is your new resume and a place for students to learn new skills  (video)

(This student-friendly video can be shown in the classroom or at home)

(Click on the three lines or a blue dot in the video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

How to balance screen time on TikTok so it becomes a positive instead of a negative (video)

(This student-friendly video can be shown in the classroom or at home)

(Click on the three lines or a blue dot in the video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

Screen time addiction tips for TikTok

  • TikTok is made to be addictive, so we all have to be intentional about how we spend our time
  • Start by looking at the screen time reports on your device to know how much time you generally spend on your TikTok account…talk about it with a friend or a trusted family member! 
  • Let’s decide as a family: How much time is ok to spend on TikTok? Think about all the responsibilities in your life and where TikTok fits in, even 5-10 minutes at a time
  • Take advantage of Android's Digital Wellbeing and Apple's Screen Time settings to take control of screen time

What the experts say about TikTok  (video)

(This parent and educator video is best to be shown to adults)

(Click on the three lines or a blue dot in the video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

Titania Jordan from Bark Discusses TikTok  (video)

(This parent and educator video is best to be shown to adults)

Navigating TikTok safety and security for parents and teachers (video)

(This parent and educator video is best to be shown to adults)

(Click on the three lines or a blue dot in the video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

Additional information about TikTok

  • Users must set up an account to view content in the app; however, they can view content on a desktop without an account.  Their friends may text them links to videos they can watch through the browser on their phones
  • Like many social media platforms, users earn likes and comments on their posts
  • Students will talk about their favorite videos or popular videos with their friends at school and view them on their friends’ phones, even if they aren't allowed to use the device during school hours
  • The app offers Direct Messages. This feature is automatically disabled for younger users (effective April 30, 2020)

Where to download TikTok

Common TikTok phrases/terms parents should know

  • FYP (#fyp): For Your Page-creators use this hashtag with the hopes of making it into other users’ FYP (where TikTok opens to, tap Home in the app)
  • IB: Inspired By-Usually used with an @ to tag someone else
  • DC: Dance Credit-The user is giving credit to the original creator of the dance
  • CEO: Chief Executive Officer-The “absolute best” at something
  • POV: Point of View-A creator may tell the viewers how to watch the video
  • OOMF: One Of My Followers
  • Heather: Is usually meant to describe someone as gorgeous or desirable
  • Green screen: A backdrop that allows TikTok effects, photos, or images to appear
  • Accountant: Slang code word for being a sex worker or OnlyFans creator
  • P(star emoji): Porn Star
  • Simp: Insult to someone who goes out of their way to do things for someone they like and hope to start dating but end up in the "friend" zone

2023 Community of Standards update

  • TikTok does say they remove content that they believe violates their Community Guidelines, but inappropriate videos still get posted on other platforms and are often seen thousands of times before they are removed
  • Drugs, controlled substances, alcohol, and tobacco are technically not allowed, but are very prevalent
  • Accounts for users under 16 cannot use direct messaging, host livestreams, and their content cannot appear in other users’ For You feed (but students often misrepresent their age when signing up)
  • Grooming behaviors are when an adult tries to build a relationship with a student to gain their trust. TikTok says they look for these types of interactions between adult accounts and minor accounts–BUT most predators work under minor aliases as part of their grooming tricks 

What should parents & educators know?

  • It’s easy for students to come across mature content or triggering content that could promote self-harm or eating disorders or be faced with a cyberbullying problem that can move offline
  • Accounts for students aged 13-15 are automatically set to private, and duet and stitch are disabled for users under age 16
  • Users cannot change their age on TikTok without talking to customer support; however, they can enter their age incorrectly when they initially set up their account
  • Students can find ways to prevent content from getting flagged and to bypass TikTok’s content filters by using creative hashtags and purposely spelling words wrong

Examples of TikTok dangers from the news

GMA TikTok pushes harmful content to teens every 39 seconds, new report claims
A new NGO report released Thursday claims TikTok's algorithm targets "vulnerable teens" and recommends "harmful" content to them, sometimes as rapidly as every 27 to 39 seconds. - Good Morning America

TikTok was secretly accessing the clipboard on users’ devices, according to Forbes

Forbes Warning-Apple suddenly catches TikTok secretly spying on millions of iphone users
"The most acute issue with this vulnerability is Apple’s universal clipboard functionality, which means that anything I copy on my Mac or iPad can be read by my iPhone, and vice versa. So, if TikTok is active on your phone while you work, the app can basically read anything and everything you copy on another device: Passwords, work documents, sensitive emails, financial information. Anything." - Forbes

Predators from TikTok can show up anywhere

The New York Times A Child's TikTok Stardom opens doors.  Then a gunman arrives
"Ava Majury downloaded TikTok when she was 13…Ava noticed that one fan was trying to get her attention in comments on TikTok. He messaged her in Snapchat and on Instagram, and turned up in online games she played with her brothers… The fan was an 18 year old man who  arrived with a shotgun at Ava’s family home." - The New York Times

Videos promoting drinking and alcohol are prevalent despite community guidelines:

Privacy/setting recommendations for TikTok

How to set your TikTok account to private

  • Click on privacy in your settings
  • Slide “private account” over until it turns blue

How to set your liked videos to private

  • Click on privacy in your settings
  • Tap “who can view your liked videos”
  • Select “only me”

How to turn off Stitch and Duet

Stitch and Duet are functions that allow user content to be reposted and shared by other users and can potentially be a source of cyberbullying. It is disabled for users under 16. Older users may still want to disable this setting.

  • Click on privacy in your settings
  • Find “Duet” and “Stitch” under “interactions”
  • Select “only me” on each of them

How to limit who can send messages and comment on TikTok videos

  • Click on privacy in your settings
  • Click the slider next to “filtered requests” so that it turns blue
  • Click on “direct messages” and select “followers you follow back and people you sent messages to”. This will not  allow students to receive direct messages from strangers

Top safety settings in TikTok video

(This parent and educator video is best to be shown to adults)

Family Pairing

TikTok Family Pairing
  • Family Pairing through TikTok allows families to work together to set screen time limits and monitor what the teen can see
  • Family Pairing does require the adult to have an account on their own device, but even if you don’t use it every day, we always recommend parents being on the same apps as their kids  
  • From the parent’s TikTok account, Family Pairing can be used to help the student with:
  • ~Screen Time Management
  • ~Restricted Mode, which limits inappropriate content
  • ~Limits what content can be seen
  • ~When Restricted Mode is on the user cannot log out to then log into another account
  • ~Search

Go to Settings and privacy:

1: Scroll down and tap Family Pairing

2: Select the Teen option

3: Open TikTok on the parent’s phone and go to the Family Pairing screen in Settings & Privacy

4: Select  Parent

5: Use your teen’s device to scan the QR code on the parent’s device

Family Pairing recommendations

  • Privacy and safety
  • ~Private account-Keep your account private until you are ready 
  • ~Who can send direct messages to your teen-Our recommendation is “Friends” or “No one”
  • ~Who can view your teen’s liked videos-Our recommendation is “Only your teen”
  • ~Who can comment on your teen’s videos-Our recommendation is “Friends” or “No one”

Crash course in navigating TikTok for adults

Home screen

  • When in the “Home” section, videos will autoplay and repeat (until you scroll to the next video)
  • Tap the center of the screen to pause the video 
  • Swipe up/down to change videos
  • Swipe left to view the profile for the video you are watching
  • Double tap the center of the screen or tap the heart to like a video

Discover screen

  • “Discover” is where trending videos are organized by hashtags
  • You may come to this page to search for a topic/person, but this area is addictive

Check and set up security alerts

1: Click on Security and login

2: Select Security alerts

3: Select Manage devices

4: Select 2-step verification

Branding your TikTok profile

1: Start by branding your profile to put your best foot forward. Click on “Edit Profile” to get started

2: Profile Photo: Use a clear smiling photo of yourself (the same photo across all of your accounts)

3: Name: Use the name you will use on your college admissions (or what you go by most often)

4: Username: Use something very similar to the name people will Google when they learn about you

5: Bio: Write 1-2 lines about yourself and possibly what school you attend (when you are ready for colleges to find you)

6: Connect your Instagram and YouTube: Optional adding links to your social media profiles


TikTok is extremely popular with students; in fact, 41% of TikTok accounts are between the ages of 16 and 24 (Source: GlobalWebIndex.com). Parents can work with their students to find ways to use the app safely and in a way that fits with their family values by engaging in a continuous dialogue about appropriate ways to use TikTok, current social media challenges, and what to do in the event that students come across content that makes them feel uncomfortable.

More TikTok resources from SmartSocial

An example of what kids see on TikTok

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