TikTok App Guide (2022): What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

, you're logged in!
August 24, 2022

Become a member or log in to view this course

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

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

Become a member or log in to view this course

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

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Green Zone.
This app is not safe for students to use unsupervised, but a Green Zone app can serve a positive purpose to help a student to navigate social media and someday build an online brand. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Green Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Gray Zone.
Gray Zone apps often contain lots of private & disappearing messages, and strangers can use this to chat with students. Parents should participate in these apps with students to keep them safe. This zone can be a great place for family time since many of these apps can be entertaining, and let your students express themselves. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Gray Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Red Zone.
Red Zone apps often have lots of anonymous features, adult content, and easy contact with strangers. Supervision is strongly suggested on each of these apps or move your kids to a safer zone. All apps require parental supervision, these apps more than others. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Red Zone or view our list of 100+ Apps to find a safer app with your student.
Join our weekly newsletter to learn about the 100+ app reviews at SmartSocial.com

This trend is categorized as a Dangerous Social Media Challenge.
Viral challenges encourage students to do dangerous things to garner likes, views, attention, and subscribers. These challenges can be found across several social networks and may encourage students to perform dangerous activities. SmartSocial.com keeps parents updated on these social media challenges before an incident may occur in your community.

Table of Contents

TikTok is a make-your-own music video app that is now the top most downloaded app in the world. It’s wildly popular among US teens and young adults who enjoy watching and creating short online videos.

In this SmartSocial.com TikTok App safety guide you will learn 1) why students like TikTok so much and their tips to be safe on the app and 2) tips for parents, students, & teachers to make the app safe and fun.

What students think about TikTok (video)

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

In this video, students answer the following questions about TikTok

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

  1. What do students like about TikTok?
  2. Have you seen anything negative on TikTok that you don't like?
  3. How do you manage your time on TikTok and how do you feel after you use TikTok?
  4. Tips to use Digital Wellbeing on TikTok
  5. What should parents understand about TikTok?
  6. Tips from students for students to regulate time on TikTok
  7. How do you cheer up a friend who has been on TikTok too much?

Student, parent, & educator training video

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

Students: Download this pdf to follow along with the video

What we're covering in this video lesson:

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

  1. What is TikTok?
  2. Navigating TikTok
  3. Privacy settings
  4. How to limit messages from TikTok users and comment settings
  5. Tips for screen time addiction
  6. Family Pairing
  7. When to go public with a TikTok video
  8. Your TikTok account and profile
  9. Tips for creating a safe TikTok video for social media challenges

Parent & educator training videos:

Why parents and educators should care about TikTok (video)

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

What we're covering in this video:

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

1. Predators on TikTok

2. TikTok security risks

3. Social media challenges

Top safety settings in TikTok video

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

What we're covering in this video:

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

  1. 4 tips for what parents can do
  2. Social media agreement
  3. How to make a TikTok account private
  4. TikTok Family Pairing control
  5. Screen Time Management on TikTok
  6. How to turn on Restricted Mode
  7. View your student's TikTok Inbox

What is the TikTok app and why do students like it?

TikTok screen shot
  • TikTok is a social media app that allows users to watch and create videos that are 15 to 60 seconds
  • Lip-syncing, dancing, and acting out comedy sketches are some of the most popular types of TikToks
  • The built-in effects icon make it easy for users to add filters, songs, effects, and sound bites without any additional apps
  • The app boasts an “endless stream” of content for users to watch, which can promote addictive behavior in students
  • The app was formerly known as Musical.ly
  • The TikTok community in general tries to share content for their target audience, but users can still press the "not interested button" to help filter what they see
  • TikTok is a place to go:
  • ~For comic relief
  • ~As an escape from stress
  • ~To learn life “hacks”
  • ~To connect with celebrities
  • ~To pick up tips & tricks no one else talks about
  • ~To learn about what is going on in the world
  • ~Connect with hobbies or interests
  • ~To watch others who have similar struggles as me
  • ~To practice video editing skills
  • ~To know what other people are talking about

There are some negative aspects, with negative comments on people's videos and being able to spend too much time on the app (because of how quickly you can move through the different videos.) Parental controls and the app's mental health initiatives do try to help you self regulate the use of the app. Parents - students say that it's okay to have you tell your students to get off of the phone if you notice they spend too much time on it.

Things students wish parents knew 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

How students interact on TikTok

  • Like many social media platforms, users earn likes and comments on their posts
  • TikTok incentivizes collaboration by allowing users to “duet” with each other with video alongside another video or a split screen, which encourages audience reactions
  • Students must download TikTok to view what's in the app, though many social media sites often share videos from TikTok as well
  • Users can follow others on the app without posting their own content, but there is no way to browse content on the app without setting up an account
  • Students will talk about their favorite videos or popular videos with their friends at school, even if they aren't allowed to use the device during school hours
  • The app offers Direct Messages. The app automatically disables this feature for younger users (effective April 30, 2020)
31% of users are spending more than 2 hours on TikTok a day (Source: Statista)

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
Screen shot of Tiktok

Why should parents & educators care?

  • 41% of TikTok accounts are between the ages of 16 and 24, according to GlobalWebIndex.com
  • It’s easy for students to come across mature content or triggering content that could promote self harm or eating disorders
  • TikTok challenges can range from funny and innocent to dangerous or illegal
  • 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
  • Cyberbullies are present on TikTok and spread quickly in person

Examples of TikTok dangers from the news

Teen shot, killed in Colorado's San Luis Valley while filming TikTok dance video
Two minors and an adult face charges after a Colorado teenager was shot in the head and killed while filming a video for the popular social media platform TikTok earlier this month - The Colorado Sun

Videos promoting drinking and alcohol are prevalent despite community guidelines:

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

"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

TikTok isn't meant for kids under 13: TikTok says it attempts to remove content created by kids under 13

"TikTok, which is owned by Chinese conglomerate ByteDance Inc., has worked to broaden its appeal to adults, which it believes is critical to its growth and survival. It has also been trying to boot younger children off the app, and is required to take offline all videos made by children under 13 under a settlement it reached [in 2019] with the Federal Trade Commission." -The Wall Street Journal

Dangerous challenges become popular and spread quickly around the country

What can parents & educators do about the video sharing platform?

TikTok logo
  • Download the app, create your own TikTok account, watch your first video (or more), then determine if it’s safe for your family
  • Stay involved by letting your kids teach you about TikTok starting with the home screen and what is in the three dots
  • Sit together to find the edit profile button on each of your accounts, edit your profile photo and ask them what else they do to edit a user's profile
  • Tell your children to come talk to you, or a trusted adult, if they are ever contacted by a stranger on TikTok
  • Use features in the TikTok account to help limit what your students see (Digital Wellbeing and Family Pairing)
"Are these restrictions completely foolproof? No. Nothing truly is. Managed profiles can even disconnect themselves from Family Pairing (you’ll be notified when they do)."- Forbes

2022 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
  • Behaviors include extravagant flattery, requests to contact on another social media account, requests for personal information, etc. 

Standards for an adult TikTok account vs. underage account

  • 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
  • Teens must know to never meet anyone in person who they talk with online, even if they think it’s another student
  • NEVER share personal information
  • Talk to a trusted adult in your life if you do find yourself connecting with and receiving praise from a stranger online
App timers in Android Devices

Screen time addiction tips for TikTok videos

  • 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 TikTok…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
  • Watch the Parent & Student video to see exactly how to set screen time limits on Androids and iPhones

Use Android’s Digital Wellbeing to minimize screen time

Apple's App Limits

1: Tap Digital Wellbeing and parental controls on your phone’s Settings menu

2: Tap App timers

3: Find TikTok under Social and tap the hour glass

4: Set your timer

Use Screen Time on Apple devices to minimize screen time

1: Screen Time on your device’s Settings menu

2: Tap App Limits

3: Tap Add Limit

4: Expand the Social category and select TikTok and Next

5: Select the amount of time allowed each day on TikTok and tap Add

Family Pairing

  • Technically, TikTok is for users 13  and older (though students may lie about their age to get on the app)
  • Family Pairing through TikTok allows families to work together to set 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  
  • Talk about this as a family! Most of these settings can be saved on an individual’s account also
  • Parents must set up their own TikTok account, then link to your student’s account
  • From the parent’s TikTok account, Family Pairing can be used to help the student with:
  • ~Screen Time Management
  • ~Restricted Mode 
  • ~Limits what content can be seen
  • ~When Restricted Mode is on the user cannot log out to then log into another account
  • ~Search
  • ~Turns the search feature on or off
  • 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

TikTok Family Pairing

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

"Liked videos"

  • When you click on the heart and “like” a video or double click the middle of the screen, that video becomes a part of your TikTok portfolio (it will live on your profile for others to see)
  • Not all “likes” need to be public
  • If you “like” a video, but don’t want colleges/employers to see it attached to your profile, you can make all your “liked videos” private
  • You can view your liked videos on your profile
Who can view your liked videos setting to Only me
  • ~1: View your profile
  • ~2: Click on the heart to see all of your liked videos
  • ~3: Click on privacy in your settings
  • ~4: Tap “Who can view your liked videos”
  • ~5: Select “Only me”
  • Anything you like on TikTok will leave a lasting impact on your TikTok portfolio 
  • This setting will not allow video(s) you liked to be seen on your profile
  • Settings change from time to time without you knowing 
  • Check this setting occasionally to make sure your private videos are still private

Limit who can send messages and comment on your videos

Limit who can send messages and comment on videos
  • Go to Settings > Privacy:
  • ~1: Click on “Who can send you direct messages”
  • ~2: Select “No one” (press the back arrow)
  • ~3: Click on “Who can comment on your videos”
  • ~4: Select “No one”

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 started2: 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

Making TikTok accounts private

TikTok Privacy and safety setting screen

1: Click on the three dots

2: Click on Privacy to open Privacy settings

3: Switch to Private account

Social media challenges

  • Social media challenges are trending topics with the same music and actions
  • Many challenges that become popular include dangerous acts that are one-time acts or long-term takes over time
  • Users see only 15-60 seconds of what the creator actually experienced…and the dangerous side-effects aren’t part of the often funny videos on TikTok
  • Talk to your parents
  • If you see an interesting social media challenge you want to participate in, consider making a plan of how you’ll carry it out vs. “winging it”
  • Consider what might happen after you stop the camera 
  • Could someone get in trouble at school or with the law? Posting your video on social media could be the perfect evidence to prove you participated in something against school rules or the law
  • Is there something that would need to be cleaned up after your attempt? Who will do it?
  • Before posting anything on social media, always ask yourself: how would this video contribute to my online reputation? Even if your account names don’t personally identify you, anything can spread on the internet and easily be connected back to you
  • If your friends are participating in dangerous social media challenges (like taking medication or eating non-food substances) talk with a trusted adult like a school counselor or your parent immediately to make sure your friends get help 
  • Think twice about who you follow on social media or what types of posts you like. When you show interest in a topic or type of user, the social media algorithms use that information to develop what they think you want to see in your feed

More TikTok resources from SmartSocial

Is TikTok Here to Stay in the USA? (2020)

MomTalk podcast with Beth & Andrea

An example of what kids see on TikTok


Teens can have a ton of fun expressing their creativity on TikTok. The videos your kids are watching or creating might be harmless, but due to widely reported safety and security dangers, it’s important for parents to be aware of exactly what their kids are doing on TikTok.

, can you give us some feedback about this lesson?

Logged in and still not seeing content? This course may not be part of your membership plan. Click here to join.

Share Your Thoughts With Our Team

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

We Release VIP Content Each Month:

Some content is free, others require a VIP membership

Become a Very Informed Parent (VIP) to get our social media suggestions in your email every Tuesday & Thursday.
Dotted arrow to right
Learn about our
"Very Informed Parent" 
VIP Program
Right arrow
Josh Ochs headshot Round
Schools & Districts: Partner with us to protect your community online

Our remote presentations (and website) teaches over a million students each year how to shine online. We teach students how their accounts can be used to create a portfolio of positive accomplishments that impress colleges and employers.

Partner with SmartSocial.com
Right arrow
SmartSocial podcast logo
Join Our Smart Social Podcast each week on iTunes

With over 240 episodes, Josh Ochs interviews psychologists, therapists, counselors, teachers, and parents while showing you how to navigate social media to someday shine online.

Listen on:

Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts

Here are some of the latest resources at SmartSocial.com:

TikTok App Guide (2022): What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

Fill out this form to receive free tips each week

Note: Many of our 400+ resources now require a low-cost membership to help us deliver great research and expert safety guides. Become a member today, login here, or have your district request a partnership to make these resources free for your community.