Review of TikTok

TikTok was new to me, I had heard all about it but had not actually looked at it prior to this assignment. My first step was to ask my 17 year old about it and she laughed. In fact I think her words were, why do you want TikTok?!? I downloaded the app and began watching way too many hours of videos! I became familiar with the Renegade, I’m a Savage, all the challenges from fitness to dances to food, the Oh Na Na Na foot dance and the ever popular hand emoji challenge.

What is the purpose? What does it provide the user?

TikTok provides users with a platform to create, share, and view videos. The app allows you to shoot 15 second videos and then edit them with filters, music and special effects. With TikTok being one of the newer social media apps, it provides the user with familiarity from other popular apps. The filters which gained popularity in Snapchat and Instagram can be applied to your video to create special effects. When viewing a video you can show your appreciation by clicking a heart, similar to likes on Facebook and Instagram. Videos can be posted with a title or hashtags which help organize them in the way hashtags work on Twitter. There is also a comment feature similar to Facebook and Instagram. TikTok allows the user to view all videos that have been made public or you can customize the videos you see by following other users that are of interest. Comment and heart totals are displayed for each video. I believe this also provides the user with validation and the goal of going viral or having a top viewed video. There is also a duet feature which allows a user to react to a video by creating a split screen showing the original video and the person who is responding or reacting.

What are the educational uses?

It is very clear that TikTok fosters creativity. It has provided a platform for everyday people and celebrities to create and share pretty much whatever they want to a global audience. In terms of education, I was surprised to see the videos that provided factual information like doctors and nurses sharing some quick FYIs about different topics. However, with factual information shared I have seen just as much misinformation. As with anything, students need be critical viewers of the videos they are seeing. As for using TikTok in a classroom, I’m still undecided. I can see the possibilities of creating videos for assignments and projects however, I’m not convinced that there are not already other video apps that could produce similar results. Of course, those apps would not provide a student with the opportunity to share a video in the same way. I would have liked to do more investigating to see if I could find someone or see examples of how teachers have used TikTok with their students.

What do the terms of service and privacy guidelines mean?

The terms of service is lengthy and covers many topics which include intellectual property rights and content. It also states that anyone under the age of 18 needs consent of a parent or legal guardian and recommends that the terms have been reviewed and discussed. The privacy policy is why TikTok has received some bad press and countless warnings to parents to keep their children off of TikTok. In 2014 there was an app called Musical.ly which eventually was purchased by a Beijing based company in 2017. This company already owned TikTok and decided to merge the two apps in order to create one global platform. Just like any app, personal data is collected and stored. What makes TikTok more controversial is that their servers are located in the United States and in China.

There is a seperate link to a privacy policy for younger uses which was updated in January 2020. It begins by stating, “this Privacy Policy for Younger Users explains our information collection practices with respect to information provided by users under the age of 13 on the under-13 experience of the TikTok mobile application for users in the United States”. This separate policy was developed after TikTok received a $5.7 million fine for violating COPPA. The violation was based on accounts of an investigation that Musical.ly “had undisturbing practices, including collecting and exposing the location” of young children. Despite receiving thousands of complaints from parents, the company failed to comply with requests to delete information about underage children and held onto it longer than necessary”.

While the terms of service state users should be 18 and over, the privacy policy for younger users discusses under the age of 13, Common Sense Media has recommended the app is appropriate for 16 and older “due to its mature content and information settings”. TikTok is popular and students are going to be interested in watching videos or trying to make their own. With such a broad age range currently accessing TikTok, there definitely are videos that contain mature content. But rather than banning pre-teens from using it, TikTok has created a parental guide to assist parents in making accounts and viewing options “safer”. This includes instructions on how to change accounts from public to private, restrict duets (setting who can make them with you), enabling comment restrictions, reporting a comment, unfollowing a user, blocking a user, reporting physical danger, enabling restricted mode (which limits the content that is shown), and setting screen time limits.

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