As of September 2020, TikTok has over 800 million users worldwide and it is the most downloaded app in the app store. While these numbers are not surprising, it is important to be aware that 41 percent of TikTok users are between the ages of 16 and 24 years old. This is relevant because as a large amount of users is underage, it’s the perfect attraction for paedophiles.
While adults are also at risk of being subject to sexual predators on TikTok, people 21 and older tend to express better judgement, a different perspective on strangers and count on experience to know how to protect their online persona than teens in children.
The Perfect Recipe for Misuse
Even though TikTok has a minimum age requirement of 13 years-old to join, there is no way of really knowing whether a user has entered an erroneous date of birth just to join or if they used accurate information. While all social media platforms present this danger, TikTok is particularly dangerous because, unlike Snapchat, the sensual videos teens and kids post stick around the net. More than that, they can be shared without the control of knowing who a video gets passed on to.
So, why is it that specifically TikTok in contrast with other social media platforms is a pool for online predators for kids and teens? TikTok users are not just spectators, they like to create and be a part of the entertainment. According to Wallaroo, 83% of all TikTok users have posted a video on the platform.
That’s not all, according to the same source, app users spend an average of 52 minutes on the platform per day, but users between ages four to fifteen years old, the average time increases to 80 minutes per day. You read correctly, users as young as four years old are spending time on the platform.
Knowing how much time underage minors are spending on TikTok makes adults think a little more carefully about the impact the app may be having on their kids.
Vigilantes Emerge to Confront Alleged Paedophiles
While the amount of danger the app poses to children is present and well-known to app developers, TikTok has not taken any concrete action to stop cyber predators from accessing content with children. Of course, it is a difficult task to accomplish as not all adults on the app have bad intentions like a paedophile.
In March of 2020, TikTok had to take down an Australian account created by some natives of NSW, who lured alleged paedophiles to meet somewhere promising to be an encounter with a minor only to record the confrontation. While the vigilante account was deleted, the alleged paedophile’s account was left intact by TikTok.
To back up TikTok’s decision to delete vigilante profiles, NSW police put out a warning urging people to not take the law into their own hands and expose themselves to dangerous situations that could also compromise their safety and integrity. This, however, is not the only account of vigilante profiles that is known. Recently, a new trend in Australia has emerged, where civilians create profiles with the sole purpose of catching online child sex predators.
But many users are not surprised that these profiles have started to emerge, as TikTok provides little to no security for undearge minors getting in touch with adults. Through TikTok’s ability for strangers to get in touch with profiles through private messaging, there is a big risk of unmonitored contact. This window of communication is what is so dangerous for minors who don’t understand the risks they face on social media.
The Need for the Reinforcement of Terms & Conditions
TikTok does possess a carefully thought out set of Terms & Conditions that are typical for any social media outlet, however, in order for any violation to be taken into account, someone else has to report them. Which means, that unless someone notices inappropriate behaviour with a minor, a paedophile will have open ground to get in touch with unsuspecting victims.
This shows how cyber threats are not only viruses and malware that attack your devices, but they are also made of flesh and bone. The importance of teaching children what they can and can’t communicate online has never been more relevant.
Sexual predators online are something that has, unfortunately, become a norm in today’s society. The only way to combat them is through education, talks and careful monitoring of a minor’s online activity on a day-to-day basis.