TikTok’ll make ya… smart, smart??

Where to begin? I am more than slightly embarrassed to say that this class has forced me into a world I had absolutely no desire to enter. I have found myself struggling each week of this course with the quantity of social media I am trying to manage on top of life. I continue to find it very difficult to keep on top of it all. I have made such an effort to limit time wasters and keep my social media use to a minimum over the last few years. Now I feel the weight of it constantly. To be honest, I am kind of drowning in it!

Found here

So, you can imagine how excited I was to take on another app this week. I also knew, as much as I hoped to avoid it like the plague, that TikTok was going to be it! I did consider exploring Triller, but truth is, no one I mentioned it to had even heard of it. I found this infographic comparing the two and thought I would include it here. However, TikTok definitely seems to have the votes.

Much like Megan and Chris, I really did not want to go here. I downloaded the app and chose to ‘borrow’ a friend’s account information. I know this is terrible digital citizenship right here but I really did not want to commit to this app. I also had a friend share their child’s account information with me so I could have a look at this from a different perspective.

TikTok: The Mature Adult Version

My first venture into the TikTok world included a dive into a very trusted friend’s account. I shared my intentions with her and also asked for her perspective and insight on the app. She shared that she loves TikTok because it provides her with mindless entertainment and is funny while at the same time offering her so many learning opportunities. She appreciates that she can get news, current events and information from doctors (which she noted she could also get from Instagram) in short 30 second to one minute snippets containing practical ideas. She loves that instead of watching a six minute YouTube video or reading an article, she can get relevant information and strategies demonstrated quickly. Overall, she feels that TikTok is very real, with little hate and contains less of people posting their ‘perfect’ lives, as found on overly filtered Instagram and Facebook.

When I explored her account, I found that there was very little of the ‘dancing’ and ‘mindless challenges’ that I have heard about. Honestly, I expected to see a bunch of versions of the Renegade (which I learned how to do without ever going on TikTok) but instead I found so much curated to her interests in teaching, as Megan also mentioned, especially reading, plants and practical life hacks. I also found some really excellent content geared toward her own personal journey. I was actually pretty impressed. Even the ‘For You’ page seemed to include some great stuff for parents, teachers and people wanting to live a healthy lifestyle. On the more mindless side of things, I quickly found myself enjoying Blue Cardigan Guy and this humorous but informative (and very lovable) Muslim couple.

The truth is, her account was very ‘clean’ and full of interesting content. While she did not identify TikTok as a time waster, she was very clear that this is her ‘bedtime reading.’

TikTok: The Child’s Version

I have not allowed my youngest daughter (who is ten) to get TikTok, purely for the reason that I have been very educated by multiple groups of grade five through eights who tend to be very honest with me. I learned the hard way with my older daughter, that I need to know how these apps work, makes sure to set them up correctly, monitor their usage and keep the conversation open. I was not yet ready to do this with TikTok and despite the fact that all her friends have it including peers much younger than her (we are talking grade one and two), I would not cave. She accepted that and I have to say that after exploring this eight year old’s TikTok account, I feel very good about my decision.

I started with the permissions section. I could not find any real restrictions set, nor how to change them once it was set up. Some of the options in the article I discuss later were not even visible. I noticed that this could be done on account set up, but how to go back and change that is another question. It is possible that her parent has to log in through their account to do this, but I am not sure that is the case in this situation.

While this child has only a small number of followers and her account is set as private, she is following 215 other accounts. In exploring her feeds, I began with those she is following. For the most part, these were kids dancing and doing silly videos. However, knowing many of these children, I can confidently say that most of the kids she was following were two to six years older than her. Obviously the content, and their choice of dance moves, is not always going to be appropriate. Just because you know them does not mean they will post quality content, right?

My real concern was with the ‘For You’ section. The majority of what was in her feed was absolute junk. In this eight year old child’s feed I saw content about smoking pot, taking shots, crazy stunts such as those Chris mentioned, swears and content that was just too old for her including bras and tampons. All of this was within three minutes of scrolling.

My Thoughts

So why? What is the big difference here?? Why is it that I explored an adults account and found it to be completely appropriate and a child’s but found it to be not at all age appropriate?

I infer that this has so much to do with the quality of content kids are seeking out. We know they are not seeing the best stuff because they are attracted to the fads, the most ridiculous and hilarious things or the most popular. I think this is a natural part of growing up but it doesn’t mean we want them seeing everything that is out there! Whether we like it or not, and regardless of it’s potential for learning, social media opens worlds we don’t always want to expose our children to.

Leigh mentioned that her students have told her that their parents follow them in order to make sure they are using the media appropriately. Unfortunately, I really don’t think that is enough. Parents are not getting a full picture of the world their kids are entering by just watching to see what they are posting!! I found this article on TikTok Parent controls in hope it may help me as well as some of you. Within this article they mention that one of the most important features is parent pairing which allows the parent to see and control from afar. I have to agree, from my own experience, that the full ability to see what they are up to is essential to keeping our children safe and keeping the conversations open. Despite this, this article also points out that even with every control on, the suggestive and explicit content will still make it through to our children. The point . . . this is not something we should be allowing our children to dive into blindly or without the appropriate supervision.

Now I am REALLY Embarrassed!

After everything I have just told you, you are going to be shocked to hear this. The truth is that my friend’s account opened my eyes to the potential of TikTok as a learning tool. I see that creatively there is much potential and applaud those willing to give that side of things a try (like Leigh with her Kiss your pets head video). However, I am leaning much more towards the side of what I can learn using TikTok. She really sold me on the idea of being able to learn from short videos. So guess what I did?? I signed up for TikTok! I created an incognito account, as I really do not want my students to find me, and I have zero intention of creating at this time. However, I wanted to use this to search for content specific to my Major Learning Project theme of training my dogs. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could learn valuable tips in short and efficient videos that would actually help me on this journey? Well that is what I am hoping for!! In fact, my new goal is to learn as much as I possibly can about Dog Training from TikTok.

As you can see from this quick search, I am most definitely not the first to think of this. However, this is a big BIG step for this TikTok sceptic. I am actually somewhat looking forward to exploring this side of TikTok more and where it will take me on this journey. At the same time, I feel I have acquired some valuable knowledge about the parenting side of TikTok that I will be certain to share.

2 thoughts on “TikTok’ll make ya… smart, smart??

  1. Although you have been doing a good job of limiting your social media intake, or time wasters as you mentioned, it was interesting to hear that you learned something from it. I think it’s a pretty neat thing that you were able to discover the social media platform in a totally different light then you had originally anticipated. I too will borrow an account or use it as a guest (yes, I agree, terrible digital citizenship) for my Digital Learning Project, as the quick videos may be an asset to my learning, even if I hate to admit it. Thanks for sharing such a detailed and honest post. It was a good read.

  2. Hi Gillian,
    I really appreciate you taking the time to look at a kid’s account. I was super curious if they would have different videos/settings due to their birth year. It really is awful that many children are seeing super inappropriate videos. It’s also really easy to search for mature content.

    I’m in the same boat as you and will be using Tik Tok for learning and for downtime. I don’t intend on making any videos. I’m more of a scroller than a sharer on social media. However, I do need to start posting on Twitter more often!

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