If you have any children or teens or teach them, odds are you know that they’re using the TikTop app at high rates. The chat app allows for immediate live streaming, anonymous texting, and picture- and video-sharing.
It’s Chinese-owned and worth billions of dollars, largely because of the number of children and teens using it on a daily basis. Many of them like it because it’s so easy to conceal from parents and teachers, and because it’s fast, minimalist, and user-friendly.
But many activists and internet safety advocates say that the TikTok app has a dark side. It’s actually, many suggest, a hunting ground for pedophiles.
Read on to learn about common disturbing trends on TikTok and how children are being targeted by predators on the app.
TikTok is popular among pedophiles primarily due to its ease of use and anonymity. It’s free and simple to use, meaning that just about anyone can pick it up and start using it immediately.
Although the app claims to be meant only for users who are 13 and over, no proof is required to download or use the TikTok app. This means that many of the users are not only under 18, but under 13 as well.
TikTok also has few privacy protections for users. Children and teens often use TikTok to share pictures, videos, and live streaming “stories” throughout the day. Unless they set their accounts to private, anyone can see their live streams and other content from any corner of the globe for free (and without having to enter any private information, such as a legal name or location).
Many pedophiles, some activists allege, log in to watch and attempt to prey on young children.
There are a few concerning trends to watch out for when it comes to TikTok’s status as a burgeoning hunting ground for pedophiles.
Anyone can watch or comment on children’s photos and videos, which may lead to predatory behavior.
Certain disturbing hashtags, such as #tradefortrade (meaning nude and explicit photo-trading requests) and others specifically related to children and minors, have been discovered to be used to stalk and groom young girls in particular. Viral hashtags like #takeitoff involve young girls removing their clothes for likes and comments from potential child molesters.
In other cases, young girls have been asked by predators to strip for money or have been promised other rewards in exchange for phone sex, sexting, or illicit webcam material.
One study found that one in every 20 children using the TikTok app had been asked to strip on camera by an adult. Even children as young as eight, investigators found, had been targeted through comments and direct messages.