My 8 and 11 year old kids are a big fan of TikTok, so I decided to look at a few apps, including TikTok as part of my Major Project. I downloaded the app and made an account, that my daughter and I share. Interestingly many of her friends are on TikTok posting videos, so I am not the only parent who agreed to this. Looking at this app more carefully, I learnt that it is a social network where people have the opportunity to record lip-syncing, share creations, create remixes, etc. It has cool filters, speed adjustment, duet function and music/sound. Watching several videos on TikTok, I certainly came across some very creative pieces, tutorials, funny videos, as well as recordings that I wasn’t sure of what their purpose was. I noticed that breaking news makes its way into TikTok as well. The death of Kobe Bryant was on TikTok for more than a week. I had a hard time watching those videos, since the content was very powerful and heartbreaking. I felt that youth throughout the world was mourning his death. At this point, I cannot say that I am for or against TikTok. What was shocking for me from the very beginning was the swearing and the sexual content. But is TikTok the only app where kids come across this? Luckily it has privacy and safety settings with the option to create a private account.
I looked at the 9 elements of digital citizenship developed by Mike Ribble regarding TikTok
- Digital Access: TikTok is an easy to access app, there is no account sign up required to view its content. My 8-year-old son has access to TikTok. Even though he cannot comment or post, he can still view the videos as long he has the app downloaded. My 11 years-old daughter and I share an account, or I could say I supervise her using my account. Since there are mixed reviews, this was the only way I felt comfortable of her being on Tiktok.
- Digital commerce: I did not come across any information regarding this element. I am wondering if it is applicable to TikTok.
- Digital Communication and Collaboration: TikTok is being used for electronic exchange of information. People use short descriptions attached to their videos so the audience would understand the message. It is used to share creations, tutorials, bits of news, entertainment as well as for finding own voice and express self.
- Digital Etiquette: When it comes to TikTok, it is important for people to remember to be cautious how they present themselves in front of the world. Since this app has an option to comment on each other’s posts, this is when raising responsible digital citizens is crucial. Teaching people to THINK (Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? Is it kind?) before they post anything is the key.
- Digital Fluency: has a strong connection to digital etiquette. As Ribble described, the better educated or “digitally fluent” students are, the more likely the ones to make good decisions online, supporting others instead of making negative comments. Digital fluency also ties in with media literacy and the ability to differentiate reliable information from poor content. As Matteo mentioned, some of his students use TikTok as a source to learn about news. It certainly provides bits and pieces of breaking news, but do our students have the ability, skills, and knowledge to think critically when it comes to the news or they fall for the ‘fake news’ as well?
- Digital Health and Welfare: I just downloaded the TikTok app not long ago, and just as Matteo said, if I don’t set a time limit, I end up spending hours a day watching TikTok videos. It is almost addicting. Most of the videos are short, vibrant, sometimes funny, or creative, sometimes super sad. If I am having such a hard time keeping a balanced approach when it comes to this app, how do we expect our kids and students to do so?
- Digital Law: Setting a private account is crucial to be able to avoid anybody being able to text. Cyberbullying and sexting can still be an issue in within the circle of youth.
- Digital Rights and Responsibility: this is a crucial element of being a responsible digital citizen. We need to teach our students to be diligent when using Social Media, raising critical thinkers to be able to identify potential problems as well as be brave to inform adults of problems they come across. This way they can protect themselves and others.
- Digital Security and Privacy: It is important to teach our students to respect their privacy by being careful with the information they share through their TikTok videos and comments.
Looking at the 9 elements of this widely used app made me look at it more critically. I think a similar activity would be useful for students to do as a class, to raise critical thinkers when it comes to Social Media.