Welcome to our journey through TikTok.
TikTok quickly became the #1 most downloaded app in 2020. If you have ever used it yourself, you probably understand why. The short videos are hilarious, engaging and downright additive. Although more than a third of the 49 million users are under the age of 14, there seems to be relatable content out there for everyone. Whether you’re curious about why it has become so popular, worried about the type of content your child is seeing or interested in learning the ins and outs of the tech side of things, we have all the answers!
Now, let’s dive in!
TikTok is the world’s most popular application for short-form mobile videos, most being less than 60 seconds long. Their mission is “to inspire creativity and bring joy and [they are] working on this mission by enabling users to connect and express themselves authentically.” TikTok users can enjoy a wide variety of content. From acting challenges to Shrek memes, if there’s an audience for it, you can find it.
Yes, TikTok can appear scary and unknown. Not to mention the criticism it has received lately highlighting security issues or unfiltered content. On the other hand, it can be a positive online community that encourages individualism, creativity and connection.
The first thing you see when you log into TikTok is the feed. It’s an endless stream of videos recommended “For You” that are currently trending. On the right-hand side of the screen is the “Like” button (heart), the comments section and share arrow. The bottom of the screen lets you “Discover” other content filtered by hashtags, post your own TikTok video or see the private messages in your inbox.
TikTok offers users two different feeds where they can view content; “Following Page” and “For You” Page. The “Following Page” is compiled of videos only from accounts that the user has specifically followed whereas the “For You” Page is curated content that TikTok generates based on the user’s watch history, comments, likes and shares. The more time a user spends on TikTok, the more personalized their curated content becomes, making it more enjoyable to scroll through.
One of the reasons TikTok has taken off so quickly is because it is one of the easiest social platforms to go viral on. With the right hashtags, trending song and targeted audience, a user with 5 followers can get upwards of a million views. If the viewers see value in their posts, they can then like, share and follow them, increasing the user’s chance of going viral again and building a fan base.
Unlike most social media platforms, TikTok provides access to content without making an account. Restrictions include not being able to like or comment on videos, share within the app, post content or watch livestreams. Due to these restrictions, the user’s “For You” Page is not personalized. They are likely seeing the most viewed videos posted by the biggest TikTok influencers. If a child decides to take this route and not make an account, it can be very difficult to monitor their activity.
It is important to know that, while inappropriate TikTok content is out there, your chances of coming across it are low (unless you are actively looking for it). Your child’s feed is likely filled with things that make them laugh, celebrities they admire and relatable experiences.
When posting a video, creators have the option to turn “duets” on for “Everyone,” “Friends” or have them off. A “duet” is when one creator makes a video, usually commenting on or reacting to another creator's video. The videos are placed side by side with the audios playing over one another. A similar, and very new, feature that TikTok has integrated is “stitch”. Rather than placing the two videos side by side, you can clip and integrate scenes from a user’s video with your own. Like “duets”, creators can decide whether or not to enable this feature when posting a video.
Like most social platforms, viewers can leave comments on the content they see. TikTok users have the option to enable or disable this feature. Some creators disable commenting to avoid bullying or spam. Comments can also receive “likes” of their own. For example, if you see a funny video and an even funnier comment, you can like both, separately. A recent feature has made it so that users can create videos in response to comments left on their content. Many creators use this feature to address negative comments left on their previous videos or answer questions.
Getting verified on TikTok gives credit to the high-quality content and recognizable brand of the user, indicated by a blue checkmark next to their username. This is not something that can be bought or easily acquired unless you are a celebrity, public figure, established business or brand. In order to gain the blue checkmark, the user must consistently gain 500-2,000 daily followers, their content views/likes consistently increase, they get featured in the media, go viral (often), or they must be verified on other social media platforms. You cannot apply for TikTok verification, the company must reach out to you. This protects popular influencers from being impersonated or copied.
In order to livestream on TikTok, a user needs to be 16 years old with 1,000 or more followers. If any community guidelines are violated, users risk losing livestream abilities, the removal of content, being banned, suspended or reported to legal authorities.
Users over the age of 18 can give “virtual gifts” to livestream viewers. To gift a creator, you must purchase “coins” (ex: 100 coins for $1.29, 500 coins for $6.49). Gifts are then converted into “diamonds” and can be traded in for cash. Coins and gifts are non-refundable; only diamonds can be traded in for money via PayPal or other verified service. You must have a minimum of $100 worth of diamonds to trade in and cannot trade in more than $1,000 worth in a day.
Launched in July 2020, the $200M US Creator Fund aimed to reward the “care and dedication [creators] put into creatively connecting with an audience that’s inspired by their ideas.” The first wave of creators accepted to the program were announced in August 2020. TikTokers have reported only making a few cents per 1000 video views.
To be eligible to apply and join the Creator Fund, users must meet the minimum eligibility requirements including:
The TikTok Creator Fund also includes monetary support for the Creative Learning Fund and the TikTok Creator Marketplace.
According to TikTok’s Parent Guide, the company believes that the platform is a positive way for your teen to express their creative side and connect with content that resonates with them.
Get ready for the legal mumbo jumbo: TikTok’s Terms of Service clearly state that users must be 13 years of age or older to sign up and have full access to the platform. In the iOS app store, TikTok has an age rating of 12+, due to infrequent/mild cartoon or fantasy violence, mature/suggestive themes, sexual content and nudity, alcohol/tobacco/drug use or references and mild profanity or crude humor. The U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) imposes restrictions on sites (like TikTok). Generally, they cannot collect personal information from children under the age of 13.
This is the part where you come in. At Cyber Dive, we don’t believe it is our place to tell you how to parent. We aim to give you all the information that you need to make the best decision for your child and family.
There are plenty of parents who allow their young children full access to TikTok. By doing this, their child can see any public video from any source, connect with people from all over the globe and send private messages, among other things. Is this inherently bad?
No, we don’t think so. Every social media platform has risks and every corner of the internet might have some content that a child isn’t ready for.
The best thing you can do is be involved, listen with intent to understand and try to teach your child about the right way to use social media.
Later on, we’ll go over ways you can stay on top of their TikTok activity as a parent.
You’ve likely read headlines about the ways that TikTok collects information & data about its users. Also, you may have seen that President Trump decided to issue an executive order banning TikTok from the United States unless they are acquired by a U.S. company. It’s all pretty scary.
But here’s the truth: every internet company collects data about their users. We don’t think you or your child have any reason to be more worried about the data collected by TikTok than Instagram. Although TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, they are one of many company holdings. TikTok does not operate in China and all of its data is managed and stored in the U.S.
There are still some things to keep in mind. In a study from the University of Toledo, researchers identified a clear link between social media use, how people compare themselves to others and the impacts that behavior has on an individual’s self-esteem. Social media can expose your child to the dangers of bullying, but the most interesting conclusion from that study is that even the positive affirmations (likes, positive comments about appearance) reinforce the skewed perception that a child might have about their own appearance. This can reinforce unhealthy beliefs they might have about their body, which could lead to eating disorders or other, more serious conditions.
At Cyber Dive, we believe in involvement over limitation. Whether you use a screen time app that blocks off time or one of our competitors that alerts you to only bad things, you’re missing out on the innocent selfies posted by your child because that photo isn’t being detected as “alert worthy”. You aren’t seeing the bigger picture in order to understand how your child may be feeling.
We see value in focusing on ALL activity to give you insight into what exactly is going on. Remaining open, aware and involved can reflect in the way your child interacts on social media. This can help them understand the connection between what they see or post and how it makes them feel.
TikTok accounts can either be “private” or “public”. If you log into your child’s account, select Settings, tap Privacy and Safety, then turn on a Private Account. That will stop your child’s videos and likes from being seen by the public. Understand that this means your child's content is not being put on random “For You” Pages. Only the followers that your child approves will be able to interact with and see the videos that they post. On a Public Account, the only privacy adjustment to be made is the user’s likes. To make the likes private, follow the same instructions as before and change “who can view your liked videos” from Everyone to Only Me.
It is important to note that, no matter the account type (private or public), a lot of information remains easily accessible. Let’s see how.
First, find your child’s profile handle. This is the @username that is located at the top of the profile page.
Type that username into the field below and click “Go”.
Even if the profile is private, you can still easily access the profile. You can see things like their profile picture, bio and follower/following count.
TikTok has global Transparency and Accountability Centers to help lawmakers and experts understand how secure and safe their platform is. Originally, these centers were facilities in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. Due to COVID restrictions, the centers have been hosting visitors virtually.
Visitors learn the systems operations behind the “For You” Page and how TikTok handles community guideline violations. They provide information on how they curate this content and any obstacles that come along with that. Visitors are also shown how TikTok stores data and the privacy and security measures that are taken. They explain how they work with third party experts in order to validate these processes. Once the physical centers are clear to open, they will show visitors how they protect their users 24/7 using their cutting-edge fusion center. These Transparency and Accountability Centers are working to publish Transparency Reports, launch a Transparency hub, share more about the “For You” Page and more.
Yes, TikTok rolled out their Family Pairing settings earlier this year. First, you must create your own TikTok account. Then, you can link your account to your child’s and remotely apply certain controls like:
You do not need to set up Family Pairing if screen time is the only thing you want to be managed. On your child’s device, log into their TikTok account, click the three dots in the upper right corner to open settings, select Digital Wellbeing and then Screen Time Management. From here you can set a time limit and a passcode that will be required when the time limit is reached to prevent them from continuing to use the app.
To get the most benefit from this feature suite, you should spend some time navigating TikTok yourself to understand exactly what you are placing limitations on.
You’ll need to sit down with your child (or have their phone) to complete this process.
Download the app onto your phone from the Google Play or Apple store and create an account.
On both devices, click the bottom right-most icon labeled “Me.” Then click the three dots in the upper right corner to open settings. Scroll down and click on Family Pairing.
From your child’s phone, select “Teen.” On your phone, select Parent. Using your child’s phone, click “Scan Code” and scan the QR code on the screen of your phone.
Now your accounts are linked!
It’s fun, different from other trending apps and easy to go viral.
The endless video feed makes it easy to find yourself immersed in music, dance trends, comedy and wannabe actors. TikTok (previously musical.ly) is one of the first social media platforms to be built “mobile-first”, where the company started with the mobile app version of the product, not a website. The lights, sounds and interactions target the social validation, self-assurance, ego and fear of missing out that makes any social network enticing, and sometimes addictive.
It’s all an extension of our physical social world. When we interact with people and receive positive affirmation, dopamine is released in our brain. Maintaining relationships by sharing experiences makes us feel safe and connected. Social media, and especially TikTok, gives us a user-friendly, constantly accessible way to get dopamine hits at all hours of the day or night.
With TikTok quickly becoming a saturated platform, feeds have been categorized in two; Straight TikTok and Alt TikTok. Straight TikTok is generally filled with videos involving the young influencers (ex: Hype House members) doing the standard lip-syncing, dancing or acting videos. While many of these influencers have gained momentum because of their younger following, some of their content could be considered 18+ age-appropriate. Since going viral can quite literally happen overnight, it is safe to say that these influencers were not prepared for the immense fame and following they gained so quickly. As a result, their recent mistakes have received public backlash from fans all over social media. For example, Sway House member, Bryce Hall, celebrated his 21st birthday amid Covid-19 in Los Angeles, California. The party was shown to have over 100 guests, none of whom were socially distanced or wearing masks.
In comparison, Alt TikTok can be any content that potentially has a less mainstream sense of humor. These types of videos are not the ones being featured on TikTok’s commercials or talked about in articles or blogs. More often than not, a user on Straight TikTok is unaware that there is even a different stream of content out there.
With 103.1 million followers on the platform as of December 2020, Charli is often referred to as TikTok’s biggest star. She posted her first video in July 2019. Her content mainly consists of videos dancing to trending songs on the platform. In October 2019, she began posting videos of the popular Renegade dance, the trend that many claim brought her into the spotlight.
Charli is one of the many creators making the jump into mainstream media. She has appeared in a Sabra Hummus commercial during Super Bowl LIV, Hollister’s July 2020 “Jean Lab” campaign, launched a makeup line with Morphe Cosmetics and more. Her sister, Dixie, is featured alongside Charli in many of her projects.
Charli has been vocal about her experiences with body shaming, bullying and internet fame. In an anti-bullying campaign for UNICEF, she shared a really personal message.
"Some of the most hurtful comments that I read about myself online are...about my body shape, my body type, which hits close to home because I struggled a lot with body image, body dysmorphia, [and] bad eating habits. No one really knows that.”
She also actively fights against her sexualization by adult men online. In an interview with MEL Magazine, she stated,
"It’s very weird, especially like when it’s [from] older people. Both girls and guys commenting on a 15-year-old’s appearance and her body shape and how she looks.”
Like Charli, Addison gained popularity by uploading dance videos to trending songs. As of December 2020, Rae has over 71.6 million followers. She is the second most followed person on the app.
She appeared at 2020 NBA All-Star weekend events alongside other Hype House members. Her parents have also found success on the platform. She began co-hosting the Spotify exclusive podcast “Mama Knows Best” with her mother Sheri in July 2020.
Also in July 2020, the TikToker received backlash for her #AExMeProm campaign with American Eagle. The TikTok campaign video featured Addison dancing to a song that encourages eating disorders. She has since taken down the video and apologized for potentially triggering her fans.
Dixie D’Amelio is a dancer, singer, model and actress with over 46.5 million followers on TikTok as of December 2020. She is the ninth most followed creator on the platform. She is also known for being the older sister of TikToker Charli D’Amelio.
In June 2020, Dixie released her first single, “Be Happy.” The music video, released July 1, has passed 75 million views on YouTube. She made her professional acting debut in May 2020 on the Brat TV series called “Attaway General,” a show following various teens volunteering at their local hospital. Dixie was featured in Ralph Lauren’s February #LoUp campaign. The video posted to Ralph Lauren’s TikTok was viewed 6.9 million times.
Chase Hudson (Lil Huddy) is one of the co-founders of the Hype House and acts as the groups “unofficial talent scout and behind-the-scenes operator.” He currently has over 28.3 million followers.
He is one of the platform's most notable E-Boys, often wearing his floppy hair parted down the center, baggy clothes, chains and chipped nail polish. All staples in any e-boys closet. Lil Huddy is often featured in the videos of other Hype House members.
Tony Lopez currently has 22.8 million followers. Like Tony, Ondreaz posts dancing and lip-synching videos for his 21.9 million followers. They are known collectively as the Lopez Brothers across social media.
Tony Lopez came under fire in August 2020 after reports of the 20-year-old TikToker sending sexually explicit messages to a 15-year-old girl began to surface. The allegations came less than a year after Tony made headlines for nude images of himself leaking on Twitter. More information, as well as screenshots of the content sent by Tony, can be found here.
In June 2020, sexual assault allegations brought against Ondreaz Lopez surfaced on Twitter. Ondreaz posted a message to Twitter recounting his version of events, offering an apology, sharing his own experience with sexual assault and providing information on the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
Nicknamed the “Clown Girl,” Avani Gregg has made a name for herself as the Hype House’s beauty expert. With over 29.6 million followers on TikTok, she is the 25th most followed creator. In addition to makeup, Gregg stars in the latest season of “Chicken Girls,” a web series. Like many creators, Gregg aims to make a name for herself outside of TikTok. Her goal is to launch her own makeup and clothing line.
With over 23.6 million followers, 18-year-old Josh Richards is a popular figure on the platform.
You may recognize his name from the time it spent trending on Twitter earlier this year. In April 2020, Richards went live on Instagram with Sway House member Griffin Johnson. He appeared to be following the popular video trend where users will drop their phone and sit on the camera with their bare butt exposed. Richards ended up showing more than just his butt. He posted an apology to Twitter explaining that “it was never [his] intention to have leaked what got shown.”
His apology was met with mixed reactions. Some people were still upset he showed such sensitive material to his primarily underage audience. In July 2020, Richards posted an 800-word letter to Medium apologizing for “allowing the LA partying lifestyle to consume him.” He also stated that he planned to take a hiatus from Sway to focus on using his platform for positive change.
Bryce Hall has gained a party animal reputation among Los Angeles residents and his 16.7 million followers. In May 2020, on a cross-country road trip, he was arrested and held over-night in Lee County, Texas on drug-related charges. Hall found himself in the hot seat once again for throwing a party for his 21st birthday. The August 2020 event appeared to host over 100 maskless guests before being shut down by LAPD for breaking LA COVID-19 social distancing guidelines. Hall and fellow Sway House member Blake Gray could face up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine for breaking COVID restrictions.
Griffin Johnson, a founding member of Sway LA, currently boasts 9.9 million followers on TikTok. Unlike many of his friends, Johnson hasn’t jumped headfirst into social media. He is currently a nursing student at Indiana State University.
Johnson stars alongside Dixie D’Amelio on the Brat web series “Attaway General.” In July 2020, Johnson reportedly left the Sway House to spearhead SwayGaming, the brand’s jump into esports.
James Charles launched his YouTube channel in 2015. His focus has been on creating unique makeup looks, launching products of his own and being the first male spokesmodel for CoverGirl. He is currently the #1 most subscribed beauty guru with 20.7 million YouTube subscribers. However, in 2019 he was involved in some controversy with Tati Westbrook (YouTube collaborator) losing him over 1 million subscribers in 24 hours. His apology video to her and his fans was the most disliked video in YouTube history. He has since spent some time as a creator on TikTok. He has collaborated with the popular content houses and many other big influencers, gained 31.8 million followers and launched Sisters Apparel hoodies.
Zach King is known as the “Digital Magician”. After going viral on Vine in 2011 with over 1 million views in 24 hours, he began building an online reputation with creative films showcasing magic tricks and illusions. He shifted to TikTok in 2016 and has since gained over 53.5 million followers, making him the third most-followed creator.
Loren Gray was one of the first people to grow a following on Musical.ly (now TikTok). As of December 2020, Gray has over 50 million followers on the platform. She held the title of most-followed TikTok creator from March 31, 2019, to March 25, 2020. Like most creators on this list, her content consists of dancing, lip-syncing and popular trends. In 2018, with the help of her social media fame, Gray signed a record deal with Virgin Records and released her debut single “My Story.” Are you a Taylor Swift fan? If so, you might recognize her from “The Man” music video. Gray’s infamous eye roll made an appearance during the tennis scene.
Ariel Martin, known online as Baby Ariel, is a social media personality, singer and actress. Originally known for her presence on Musical.ly, she now has over 35 million followers on TikTok. She has appeared in numerous Disney and Nickelodeon projects, most recently, as the co-host of “Disney Fam Jam.” Her music career began in 2017 with the launch of her debut single “Aww.” Her most recent track “The New Kid in Town” was featured in the Disney Channel movie “Zombies 2.” She also took on the role of Wynter in the television film.
In 2015, she launched the anti-bullying campaign #ArielMovement and was recognized by People magazine for her support in the #HackHarassment initiative. In 2017, time magazine recognized Martin as one of the most influential people on the Internet.
JoJo Siwa made a name for herself when she was featured on “Abby Lee’s Ultimate Dance Competition” and joined the Abby Lee Dance Company in 2015. Her spunky, energetic personality made her stand out and ultimately launched her career. She began releasing music in 2016 and building the JoJo Siwa brand. The 17-year-old millionaire has since become an influencer on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. While her fans initially consisted of young kids, since growing a following of 30.8 million on TikTok, she has become more well known among teenagers and young adults. She is often criticized for her immature demeanor and excessive hair bows, but any publicity is good publicity, right?
Jacob Sartorius first came onto the scene during the Vine era of social media. In 2014, his first post, an anti-bullying message, went viral. However, his social media career didn’t take off until he joined Musical.ly later that year. His popular lip-synching videos helped earn him the over 23 million followers he has today.
After rising to social media fame, Sartorius signed with T3 Music Group and released his debut single “Sweatshirt” in 2016. A year later his debut EP The Last Text dropped. The song “Hit or Miss” peaked at number 72 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Sartorius credits social media with helping him escape from bullying and has been vocal online about his adoption and struggle with mental health.
Danielle Cohn rose to fame on Musical.ly in 2016. She boasts over 18 million TikTok followers. Her lip-synching videos and controversial social media presence have made her an internet sensation. Controversial media presence? As Cohn’s fame rose, so did the questions. Social media users began questioning her real age. In September 2019, her father posted on Facebook claiming that she was 13 years old, not 15 like her profiles suggested. Despite the claims, Cohn has repeatedly denied lying about her birthdate.
Is that all? Not exactly… In July 2020 audio of a conversation between Cohn and her mother leaked online. In the audio, her mother refers to her as “cold-hearted” and voices regret for allowing her daughter’s past behavior, specifically the abortion Cohn had in January 2020. She posted a response to the audio on her YouTube channel, telling her story and her audience that anyone faced with a similar decision shouldn’t feel embarrassed by their choice. In the weeks since Cohn has voiced her support for Planned Parenthood and pledged to donate 30% of her merchandise sales to the organization.
Controversy aside, Cohn is attempting to make a name for herself in the music industry. In May 2017, she released her debut single “Marilyn Monroe.” Her most recent single “Foolish” was released in September 2020.
Alt TikTok: category of content that is considered less mainstream humor
And I oop: when someone says something unexpected or provocative
Baddie: an attractive girl
Cancel Culture: removing something or someone from your life (when fans stop supporting a celebrity for something they did)
CEO of _____: the best at
Chav: A British stereotype describing a young person, often from a lower class, wearing heavy make-up. A British hot Cheeto girl. Made popular by the TikTok trend: 'Ayo Chav Check'
Clout: fame (clout chaser = only caring about likes/followers)
Content House: groups of influencers (ex: Hype House, Sway House)
Deadass: Equivalent to saying “Are you serious?”; telling the truth
Deep TikTok: a more intense, subcategory of Alt TikTok
Eboy or Egirl: emo punk style internet users
Extra: unnecessarily over the top
Fishing pole and/or fish emoji: fishing for compliments
Flex: showing off
Fr: for real
Glow up: upgrading, usually in terms of appearance
Heather: The person that everybody can’t help but like. The term originated in Conan Gray’s song Heather.
Hits Different: to listen or experience something that conveys a different emotion or feeling than when previously experienced
Hot Cheeto Girl: Described on Urban Dictionary as the loudest girl in your class. She always has Takis, hoop earrings and vans. She is always trying to fight people in the bathroom. Her common phrases are “best friend” and “periodt.”
Karen: A middle-aged white woman, typically blonde, makes solutions to others’ problems an inconvenience to her even though she isn’t affected.
Left on Read: ignored, not replied to
Lowkey: secretly, down low
Muser: a TikTok user (more so referencing creators who got popular on Musical.ly and are still popular on TikTok)
No cap: no lie, ‘seriously’
OK Boomer: okay to that old, out-of-touch, resistant to change, thing
Periodt: end of discussion
POV: point of view
Rn: right now
Rt: Retweet, to agree with
Shade: insulting someone
Ship: support that relationship
Shook: shocked, surprised
SIMP: a guy who sucks up to a girl
Sksksk: conveys surprise, joy, or other intense emotions
Slaps: is really good
Slay: killing it
Snack: a good looking person
Spilling the Tea: The act of gossiping
Stan: a huge fan
Straight TikTok: Videos involving members of content houses making the standard singing, lip-syncing and POV videos.
TBH: to be honest
TFW: that feeling when
The Tea: the gossip
Thicc: curvy, large body part
Thirsty: Overly eager and desperate. Usually for attention or compliments.
Throwing it Back: body roll/twerk style dance move that is included in many of the latest challenges
Vine Energy: TikToks with the same comedic style as Vine. Relatable content made by normal people. Often one-hit wonders.
VSCO Girl: [girl that is/has] no plastic, all-natural, hydro flask, scrunchies, crocs, and vans
White Boy of the Month: when Twitter crowns a “skinny, attractive white boy as their king to obsess over for the next month until the next one rises (usually has brown curly hair). TikTok users often post compilations of the “chosen” boy.
Yeet: lots and lots of things, use it for agreement or as a dance move or for excitement. YEET!