When I opened the TikTok app for the first time, it took me less than a minute to find explicit content. I wanted to do some research into the claims that this extremely popular platform allows sexual videos, so I downloaded the app. Without even creating a user or verifying my age, videos of very young women dancing provocatively popped up on my screen. I was a bit surprised, but at the same time, it was exactly what I expected.
Most people I know follow or use TikTok. I laugh a little to myself when I see people posting their TikTok videos to Instagram and Facebook, as if posting them to one platform just wasn’t enough (*collective sigh*). It has quickly become just another outlet to get attention—likes, comments, and shares included.
But what I want to really dig into today are the dangers, pitfalls, and major red flags I have seen in just the few weeks that I have been exploring this app. I guess you could say that this is my “review” of TikTok, but I hope that by the time you’ve finished reading this article, you will be ready to delete the app forever and never look back.
1. TikTok masks explicit content with a seemingly innocent message.
I know, I know. “Cute puppy snuggling with cat” and “how to make the best chocolate chip cookies ever” can be quite enticing. A large part of TikTok is comprised of videos like these, causing us all too “ooohh” and “awwww” over an endless stream of similar videos. At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss TikTok as dangerous or inappropriate, because there are just SO many wholesome and innocent videos.
In a 2018 article produced by the Family Online Safety Institute, Parven Kaur says this about TikTok:
“Many parents have used TikTok to connect with their kids using technology by lip-synching together. It encourages users to be silly and fun and not to take everything online to seriously. The comment box does remind users to ‘say something nice’.”
It is clear that TikTok is generally portrayed as family-friendly and safe for all to use. Use the app yourself (don’t actually), and you’ll quickly realize how false this message is.
Along with adorable animal videos and fun recipe ideas, TikTok hosts young girls and women wearing little clothing and dancing provocatively to music that no child should listen to. Without being categorized as true porn, users are allowed to post sexual videos that many would label as “soft porn.” It’s obvious that this is something children should not see, but what about adults?
Should men, and even young boys, whose eyes are biologically drawn to women’s bodies, be encouraged to use this “family-friendly” app that actually allows what many would consider to be explicit content?
And what are we teaching our young girls? TikTok is teaching them how to move their bodies to songs filled with lyrics about rape, sex, and the perfect body.
2. TikTok is a gateway drug to “real” porn.
Business Today quotes Kazim Rizvi (Founding Director of The Dialogue) and his thoughts about TikTok: “There is no bar in TikTok so far. But they are not directly promoting pornography. But by being on the periphery, and by creating an ecosystem, they are contributing to the problem.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. You’re not watching porn if you watch TikTok videos. But, you are exposing yourself to content that can cause you to turn to porn. You are living in an ecosystem that contributes to and encourages the sexualization of women and the provocation of the female body. I like to compare using TikTok to walking on the edge of the Grand Canyon. All it takes is one misstep, and you are falling into a giant hole with a very bad ending.
Many people who are addicted to porn never thought they would be. I have heard stories from countless recovering porn addicts who thought that “just one click won’t hurt.” That one click developed over time into a full-blown addiction. One misstep and you’re falling straight into the canyon.
Does watching one, 15-second video of a teenager dancing by the pool mean that you’re watching porn? No.
Can it take you down the rabbit trail that ends at Pornhub or other porn sites? Yes.
Don’t start down that trail.
3. TikTok fuels child exploitation.
This year, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) added TikTok to the 2020 “Dirty Dozen” list. This list, in case you’re unfamiliar, calls out and shames popular companies that perpetrate sexual exploitation in some form.
NCOSE had this to say about TikTok:
“…due to lack of moderation and insufficient safety controls, TikTok has facilitated a space for sexual grooming by abusers or potentially sex traffickers. These exploiters utilize TikTok to view minor users and either comment and/or message these minors, often requesting sexually explicit videos or pictures. An advocacy group accurately called TikTok a “hunting ground” for predators to abuse children and Forbes identified TikTok as a “magnet to sexual predators.”
Even BuzzFeed, which I normally wouldn’t rely on for quality content, acknowledges that TikTok has a predator problem. In an app used primarily by young women, predators are jumping on the opportunity to reach out to minor users and groom them for sexual content.
And TikTok? They’re doing nothing to stop this.
A final note for parents…
As adults, we have control over what our eyes see. If you watch inappropriate videos on TikTok, that’s on you.
But, your kids? I would argue for extreme caution if your children are using the app. Do you want your 13-year-old son looking at videos of young women moving their hips to songs filled with sexual language? What about your 16-year-old daughter? Watching these videos will not build her self-esteem. It will not encourage her to respect her body or choose a significant other who respects her.
Yesterday, I watched a 7-year-old (younger than is permitted by TikTok, but still using it, somehow) dance to the song “Yummy” on her TikTok account. This song by Justin Bieber is clearly talking about love and sex—two things that no child this age should be listening to in music.
That same day, I also found an active account for an 11-year-old girl. A few of her videos included her age, yet TikTok is doing nothing to take them down. Apparently, their age requirements mean nothing.
Avoid temptation by deleting TikTok today!
You won’t have to worry about the above warnings if you stop using TikTok and encourage your family to do the same.
If you’re a teen or adult using TikTok or viewing videos through the app, consider the impact that it is having on you. Seriously think about the path that TikTok can lead you down. If you feel like there might be an opportunity for temptation or lustful thoughts, I’d encourage you to delete the app.
If you’re a parent to a child who has TikTok, check out what they are viewing. Demonstrate huge measures of caution, and talk to your kids about the dangers of this app. They’re not too young to know! If you do see red flags in how your child uses TikTok, consider talking to them about removing the app from their device.
Nothing good comes from provocative dancing and dirty language. If you’re seeking to avoid temptation for yourself and/or your children, TikTok is not the right place to land.
Note: Recently, TikTok has been found to have significant privacy issues. If you do decide to use the app (or allow your children to), I highly encourage you to look into parental controls and do adequate research on the safety of this platform. Protect Young Eyes published a fantastic app review about TikTok and continues to update readers about privacy and parental controls related to this app.