If you haven’t heard of TikTok, the major social network for sharing user-generated short videos, then there is a good chance this is your first visit to Planet Earth. Let me be the first to say, “Welcome Alien friend!”
The rest of us Earthlings, whether we’ve got a feed full of videos of our own under our belts or have just been baffled by the dance moves our kids are recording themselves doing, can at the very least claim familiarity with the app formerly known as musical.ly that seems to be taking the world by storm.
With over 800 million monthly active users, the app has found itself claiming the title as the sixth most popular social networking app available – behind well known giants like Facebook, Instagram, and FB Messenger. Pretty cool stats for an app that really just gave itself a full overhaul and relaunch in 2018.
That said, many who consider themselves whole adults wouldn’t have gone near it pre-COVID-19. It was largely known as that weird place teenagers hang out and watch/make ridiculous dancing videos with inappropriate music and over-sexualized movements.
Technically, it’s still that place.
The feed is still pretty full with young girls wearing questionable outfits while dancing uncomfortably seductively to sweary music. But, the platform has also evolved.
Thanks, in large part, to the global pandemic that has been keeping many of us home and desperate for something to do, TikTok has slipped into the void, providing catchy dance challenges and fun trends for creators young and old to get involved with. As a result, the platform has seen recent growth in its content and user diversity making it a fun place for people to pass the time at home with.
It has been an opportunity to break up the monotony of family board games and binge watching shows on Netflix find a new, fun way to bond while
stuck safe at home.
Personally, I was creating TikTok videos before we found ourselves in quarantine, but I really upped my game once school was released and lock downs in my state began. It has been fun getting the Dudes (and the dogs) involved in my TikToks and I’ve found SO many other awesome creators, many of who are moms like me (check out my faves right here: 15 TikTok Moms Worth Downloading the App For).
If you’re just getting started on the app or are thinking about opening an account, here are a few things to know.
Mom’s Guide to TikTok: What You Need to Know About the Platform and Why You Should Download it Right Now
According to Fast Company, users spend about 45 minutes per day on the app (which is longer than it takes to watch a TV show). That’s A LOT of scrolling and a ton of videos when you think about the fact that each video can only be a minute long and most of them are more in the 15 second range.
If I’m honest, I’d say my time on the exceeds that quite a bit. It’s easy to get sucked down a rabbit hole when you find a topic you’re interested in has 15 million videos about it or discover creators whose content you really enjoy.
And don’t even get me started on how much time I spend making videos.
The data and privacy concerns about the app are partially true.
It’s a Chinese based app making it one that automatically raises suspicions among lawmakers and regulators. That said, a number of the concerns around trafficking and privacy, particularly as they pertain to minors, have been unfounded. Others that have been substantiated are being addressed by the app developers. If you’re concerned, this article can help you understand the claims and their validity and, as they’re in development of an update at the moment, maybe wait until it’s been put through Apple before you jump in.
It’s okay for your kids.
As long as you monitor it.
Pretty much, everything you’ve heard about TikTok is true: it can easily be inappropriate for the tweens and young teens it’s geared at. There are predators using the app for nefarious purposes and some of those involve kids. That said, every social app comes with risks and TikTok is no different.
The app attempts to manage some of this stuff through their community guidelines.
For starters, the app requires users to be 13 in order to use the full TikTok experience (Common Sense Media states that the app is really more appropriate for teens 15+) and their community guidelines specifically call out things like videos depicting violent acts (including suicide) and hate messages, criminal and dangerous acts, harassment and bullying, nudity and sexual activities including adults or minors, and such. They have, like many other social platforms, also recently adapted policies to help eliminate the spread of misinformation.
You can read what Common Sense Media says about TikTok here: Parents’ Ultimate Guide to TikTok
They rely a lot on people reporting content and remove content consistently for violations of their guidelines.
Knowing that younger children love the content on the platform as much as the rest of us, TikTok also set up a “kid safe” section that allows younger users to see curated, clean videos. It also prevents them from engaging with content or posting any of their own.
Honestly, if your kid is close to that 13/15 age range, I imagine that they’re quickly going to find this boring and will probably also figure out that they can just change their birth date to solve this problem.
To avoid all of that, I allowed my 12 year old to have an account and we’ve been working together to keep the content appropriate for him.
In order to help his experience be less explicit and inappropriate, we agreed that he would start off by avoiding the For You Page (FYP is TikTok’s home feed where popular content that fits your engagement history lives).
Delivered to users based on TikTok’s secret algorithm, the FYP is where you can expect to encounter content from creators you don’t follow. And, because the algorithm takes some time to learn what you like, when you start on TikTok your FYP will mostly just be content they think someone “like you” would enjoy.
You can expect to find some stuff that seems pretty gnarly for the average tween.
Because my son wasn’t allowed to use the FYP, we found 50 accounts for him to follow. Creators who make funny videos without a ton of swearing like Kevin Hart, animal related accounts like GoFetch, and tons of athletes and sports channels like ESPN were his first finds. He spent all of his time on the followers feed initially and, eventually the algorithm learned what he likes and FYP began to look more like the content he was already following.
Occasionally something I prefer him not to engage with comes into his feed, but usually he just scrolls past it and gets back to lol-ing at videos and watching basketball trick shots.
But forget the kids, moms love TikTok too!
If you’re looking for moms to follow on TikTok, you’re in luck because I’m not the only mom on the platform creating content worth installing the app for.
In fact, I had to write an entire post about the moms who make TikTok such a happy place for me. You can read that post here: 15 TikTok Moms Worth Downloading the App For
To sum it up nicely though, TikTok is fun for moms too and you’ll find content about everything from recipes and gardening to parody videos about your not-so-friendly neighborhood Karen.
The diversity of content on the app is quite impressive.
Fitness, funnies, tutorials, recipes, love, people who are obsessed their plants and can’t stop talking about them even when it gets weird – you’ll literally find content for everyone on the app.
Here are some non-mom creators I personally follow and enjoy watching frequently:
- @HeyBerg – humor via Trump/Bernie/Biden voice acting
- @whatchugotforme – humor via Trump voiceovers
- @JennyChang – kinda raunchy/super funny
- @itsamandajaeger – she calls herself a “voice magician”
- @goldenretrieverlife – pretty self explanatory except for the fact that the dog is hilarious
You should probably check out Mayor Matt.
Now, because I like to keep it all the way real with you guys here, I’m going to give you the TikTok secret everyone isn’t openly talking about: there are some very, shall I say, enjoyable male creators on the platform working very hard to keep us entertained.
I’m not talking about the creepers who will inevitably send you some DM about being your sugar daddy, or the 15 year old kids who easily trick you into thinking they’re 25 because KIDS THESE DAYS.
I am talking about are people like TikTok’s favorite politician, Matt McCall, known on the app as “the Mayor of Cougar Town”.
He’s young, he’s a professional dancer, and he has got the moms (and pretty much every heterosexual woman with eyes) salivating over his TikTok videos.
While he is not alone in his efforts, he is definitely a standout in the space when it comes to knowing how to work every single one of the 15 to 60 seconds he devotes to his videos.
You can check him out here: @Matt8McCall
Remember, there’s no age limit to having fun.
But, prepare yourself to feel old.
Listen, the majority of the creators on the app are going to be younger people. Even now, when being a 40+ TikTok mom is kinda cool and trendy, the app’s demographics of both users and creators skews well below that 40 year old mark (though recent data indicates that the 40-49 age bracket is more heavily engaged on the app than the 30-39 age group).
You’re going to encounter trends, language, dance moves and more that is going to leave you scratching your head and feeling a little like you’re basically your mom complaining about skirt lengths and music lyrics.
But, also: WHO CARES!
The truth is, there’s no age limit to having fun and that’s what the platform is all about.
I encourage you to step out of your Facebook comfort zone and take a dive into the TikTok waters. Most of the people you meet there will be nice (as long as you stay in your lane and avoid the troll-y teenage set), there are some seriously good creators on the platform doing cool stuff you don’t really see anywhere else, and I promise you’ll have a good time, even if all you do is scroll and watch for hours when you’re supposed to be folding laundry.
You can use hashtags to find what’s trendy.
Like other social platforms, hashtags help you find content you’re interested in and figure out what the trends are on the app. You can easily find them by clicking on the little magnifying glass at the bottom of the page when you open the app and scrolling down the discover page. You can also just use the search bar to find the hashtag, user, song, and topic you’re interested in.
You can look at TikTok without ever posting a single thing.
In fact, most of TikTok can be viewed without even downloading the app via their webpage.
You won’t be able to interact with the videos, which includes saving them and sharing them with your friends, but you can see what all the hoopla is about before installing it to your phone and taking the time to create another password you’re going to forget.
But, if you want to post a video, be smart about it.
Here are some things to help you make videos worth watching:
Keep it short. You can record for up to one minute, but most videos stay around the 15 second mark. Try to hit that when you can
Make it fun. That’s what the app is all about. No need to take yourself super seriously. Use the fun filters and lenses and let your creativity take over.
Don’t be alarmed if only a few people watch. Or, if it only gets two views one day and six days later winds up with thousands. This doesn’t always happen, but TikTok often takes time to get your videos in front of the right users.
Engage with other users. Respond to comments, like and comment on other people’s videos, be apart of the TikTok community in an active way. Connecting with others in the platform will encourage them to watch your videos too.