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

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February 23, 2022

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This course will help VIP members learn

  • Why kids are so obsessed with TikTok
  • 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
  • How to make sure your “liked videos” aren’t shown to strangers
  • How to brand yourself and Shine Online with every video you post

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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 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 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 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

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. 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.

This safety guide will help parents decide if their students should use TikTok. Parents and educators will also learn how to make the app safer for students who are already on it.

Parent & educator training video

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. Why are teens obsessed with TikTok?
  2. TikTok addiction and online bullies
  3. How does the app work and why do students like it?
  4. Common phrases/terms to know
  5. Why should parents care about TikTok?
  6. What can parents do about TikTok?
  7. TikTok parental controls
  8. How to set up Family Pairing
  9. View your student's 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 videos on TikTok
  • Built-in editing tools make it easy for users to add filters, songs, effects, and sound bites to their videos 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
  • The app boasts an “endless stream” of content for users to watch, which can promote addictive behavior in students

How students interact on TikTok

  • Like many social media platforms, TikTok users earn likes and comments on their posts
  • TikTok incentivizes collaboration by allowing users to “duet” with each other, which encourages audience reactions
  • 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
  • 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 is the TikTok app available?

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 mean someone is gorgeous or desirable

Why should parents & educators care?

Screen shot of Tiktok
  • TikTok has been downloaded more than 3 billion times (Source:
  • 78.7 million users are in the United States (Source: Statista)
  • 41% of TikTok users are between the ages of 16 and 24, according to
  • Experts say 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
  • Some TikTok cyberbullies are making “Cringe Compilations” on YouTube. They edit together TikTok videos that they deem cringe-worthy. Some Cringe Compilations have gone viral with millions of views

Examples of TikTok dangers from the news

Videos promoting drinking and alcohol are prevalent despite community guidelines:

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

"Warning-Apple Suddenly Catches TikTok Secretly Spying on Millions of iPhone Users" headline from Forbes
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.


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?

TikTok logo
  • Download the app, spend some time using it, then determine if it’s safe for your family
  • Stay involved by letting your kids teach you about TikTok
  • Tell your children to come talk to you, or a trusted adult, if they are ever contacted by a stranger on TikTok
  • Use the features in the TikTok app 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).


Student training video

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. College athlete addicted to TikTok
  2. Reflection from an honest student about TikTok
  3. Consequences of "devious licks"
  4. College student potentially expelled
  5. Not everyone has the same intentions
  6. What happens if I share an image with a stranger?
  7. TikTok fan turns dangerous
  8. Mental health and Charli D'Amelio

Parent & student training video

(This video can be shown in the classroom)

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. What is TikTok?
  2. Navigating TikTok
  3. Privacy settings
  4. Limit message and comment settings
  5. Tips for screen time addiction
  6. Family Pairing
  7. When to go public
  8. Your TikTok profile
  9. Social media challenge student tips

2022 Community of Standards update

  • TikTok does say they remove content that they believe violates their Community Guidelines, but inappropriate videos still get posted 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. 
  • 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

Screen time addiction tips

  • 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

Live event replay

More TikTok resources from SmartSocial

What students think of TikTok (student interview with Josh Ochs)

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 - these 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

Parents & Students: Contact us if you want to be on one of our video interviews.

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.

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

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